When you write about football, even when it’s a small blog like this one, you need to find things that people are interested in reading about. Match reviews don’t tend to bring in as many readers as are ideal, so you have to think a little more outside the box. I did briefly consider writing about the Video Assistant Referee this morning, given the manner in which it’s been the most talked about thing of the weekend. I don’t agree with the straw man argument that some have created that fans have stopped celebrating goals, for example, given that you can see the explosion of joy every time the ball hits the back of the net up and down the country. I wrote about the VAR the other week, however, so I don’t want to go over the same territory. In short, I’m convinced that the PGMOL are trying to make it fail so that they can get rid of it, which is a massive shame as it has the ability to change football for the better.
There are teething problems with VAR elsewhere, but that’s what they are – teething.
In the Premier League though, those problems are amplified ten-fold because:
A) Referees are just awful
B) The interpretation of rules and non-usage of the pitchside screen is hurting VAR
— Reginaldo Rosario 🇵🇹 (@Regi1700) November 3, 2019
I was also toying with writing about the ludicrous decision of opposition supporters up and down the country to sing songs about poverty at a time when the government’s austerity policies are leaving people desperate for anything to survive. We got it from the Aston Villa supporters on Saturday when they sang ‘you’ll never get a job’ to the tune of You’ll Never Walk Alone. We’ll also be on the receiving end of similar such ‘banter’ during the Christmas period when people adapt the lyrics of Band Aid to sing ‘feed the Scousers’. Whatever your political persuasion, mocking the poor in the day and age of food banks, zero hours contracts and the highest level of homelessness for decades is just moronic. I’ve absolutely no time for it and I decided not to write about it because I don’t want to give the idiots that sing that sort of thing the time of day. Instead, therefore, I’ve decided to look at the laughable idea that Liverpool are in any way ‘lucky’.
When Are We Supposed To Have Received This ‘Luck’?
The most idiotic thing about the suggestion that the Reds have been ‘lucky’ so far this season is that I genuinely can only think of one occasion during which this fortune has revealed itself. When Dean Henderson allowed Gini Wijnaldum’s shot to spill through his hands and cross the line, there’s no question that a spot of good fortune was involved. Other than that, despite the protestations of rival fans, I’m genuinely struggling to think about when, exactly, we’ve been lucky. I can only assume that the reference is due to the number of late goals that we’ve scored, including some penalties. I would love to have an honest conversation with Everton, Manchester United and Manchester City fans and ask them if any of them would not want penalties in exactly the same situations that Liverpool have been awarded them for. They’d all scream bloody murder if not given them, with any complaints about the ones we’ve got due to tribalism pure and simple.
I don’t want Liverpool to win a throw in, naturally, but it’s not by luck they’re as good as they are. They have a manager that gets every last drop out of his players & doesn’t let them stop until it’s over. They feast on his belief and drive. Lessons could be learned.
— Dave Downie (@daviddownie17) November 2, 2019
When it comes to poor fortune, on the other hand, there are plenty of moments that I can point to. Just this weekend we’ve seen a perfectly good Roberto Firmino goal ruled out for being offside because of his armpit, to say nothing of a very good penalty claim not even being looked at when an Aston Villa defender handled the ball in the box. That’s to say nothing of the decision to allow Marcus Rashford’s goal to stand at Old Trafford despite the blatant foul on Divock Origi or the countless other moments when we seem to have been competing against the officials as well as opposition teams. It’s not just us that suffers that sort of thing, of course, with Evertonians wondering how on earth the Video Assistant Referee could spend more than three minutes looking at Dele Alli’s handball only to decide that it wasn’t a penalty. I’m not trying to claim that Liverpool are somehow more unlucky than others, just that the idea we’re lucky is ludicrous.
Fitness & Good Players Aren’t A Sign Of Fortune
The problem that opposition supporters seem to have with Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool team more than anything else is that it keeps scoring late goals. That, they suggest, is a sign of being ‘lucky’. I understand why they say it, of course. I spent my youth belittling the achievements of Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United when they seemed to win games that they were losing in the last couple of minutes. The very notion of ‘Fergie Time’ came out of that never-say-die attitude that the Red Devils displayed week-in, week-out on their way to titles. I called it luck because I was young, immature and didn’t really understand football. In reality, though, they were so ‘lucky’ because Manchester United’s players were much fitter than most other teams and they were also much better than them. It meant that they could keep playing for longer and there were more options to change the game from the bench.
35 – Sadio Mane scored the 35th 90th-minute winning goal by Liverpool in the Premier League, 10 more than any other side in the competition’s history; five of those have come since the start of last season, more than any other team. Clutch. pic.twitter.com/xQ9C5H6izh
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 2, 2019
Take Saturday’s match as an example. Some of Aston Villa’s players were going down with cramp after seventy minutes. Compare and contrast that with the fitness shown by Andy Robertson as he steamed in at the far post in the eighty-seventh minute and you’ll see what I mean. That’s to say nothing of the fact that we were able to bring on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Divock Origi, all of whom would get into most teams in the Premier League. None of that is fortune. It’s not even something other teams can feel is unfair, when you consider that their purchases were funded by the sales of other players. It’s certainly not as if our team has been built thanks to the wealth of a morally questionable country. The players are as fit as they are because of the manager’s training methods and his backroom staff. We’re developing a winning mentality, but it’s got absolutely nothing to do with luck.