What’s The Point In Televising Friendlies?

There are many questions I’ve got floating around my head at the moment, specifically with regards to Liverpool Football Club. Are we really not going to buy anyone this summer? That despite the fact that several of our key players having spent the past two months playing tournament football and not getting a rest, meaning they’ve effectively been playing football for 2 years without a decent break. What is the point of Adam Lallana being on the books? Can we reproduce the same level of intensity next season that we managed in the season just gone? You’d hope that the fact that we’ve won a trophy, and one of the biggest in world football at that, will spur the players on to want to add more silverware to the cabinet but it’s a bloody long campaign we’ve got in front of us. Making it deep into the domestic cups as well as Europe will present us with something like sixty-plus games to play at a likely intensity that will see the players have to push themselves to the edge physically.

It’s why I keep banging the drum about wanting us to sign a few players this summer, though I completely understand the counter-argument that we can’t just sign any old player and Jürgen Klopp has proven himself to be a man who will only sign the player he wants and will accept now substitutes. It’s also why I ask the Adam Lallana question, with the midfielder’s insistence that he remains unfit to play a slight cause of concern when you think we’re going to need all hands to the pumps over the next ten months if we’re to have any real hope of lifting another important shiny thing at the end of it. An FA Cup win would be lovely, but it remains the league title that I want more than anything else and I can’t see Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side relinquishing their grip on it all that easily. Another question that has popped into my head over the weekend is what, exactly, is the point of televising friendlies during the pre-season?

Intelligent Fans Get To Learn, Less Intelligent Ones Just Moan

It’s long been a cliché about Liverpool supporters that we’re amongst the most intelligent in the game, but that has become more and more idiotic a shout as the advent and explosion of social media has allowed any old Tom, Dick or Harriet to declare themselves to be Reds even if they don’t really understand the culture of the club. I’m always intrigued to see the various reactions, then, when pre-season rolls around and we start having the games televised for people to watch and pass judgement on. Most sensible supporters know that pre-season matches are little more than glorified training sessions, which is heightened by the fact that the manager often picks two completely different elevens for each half of the game. Yet some supporters start to read into everything that happens, deciding that a loss in a friendly is a portent of doom prior to the season getting underway.

The matches are a chance for the manager to assess players, to try things out and to slowly improve their fitness ready for the campaign that’s about to get underway. Watching at home we can get a vague sense of that, but too often we miss out on really important factors. Speak to anyone that was watching the game against Sevilla live and in person, for example, and they’ll tell you that the pitch was an absolute disgrace and that it was roasting hot; both things that you can’t get a true appreciation of when you’re watching at home through sleepy eyes at one in the morning. Those that are either slightly stupid or wilfully ignorant will tell you that Adam Lewis’s inability to impress means he’ll never make it at the club, rather than him being a young player that the manager is finding out plenty about and who is gaining some invaluable experience.

We Don’t Know What The Manager’s Thinking

Jürgen Klopp and his backroom team don’t waste these pre-season matches. We might not know what their plan is, but it would be idiotic to think that they head into them like headless chickens and just bumble their way through them. The problem is that armchair football fans can’t help but comment on the decisions made, the players selected, the tactics used. We’re all guilty of it, myself included. How many people saw Adam Lallana being used as the six and simply said, “What?” Yet it’s too easy to make snap judgements based on games where we have no idea what the manager has asked his players to do. It’s entirely possible that a player is playing in a position that they’re not used to not because Klopp wants to actually play them there but instead because he wants to see what another player can do in a different position and this frees them up to do that.

It’s also a chance for Klopp to learn about his players by seeing how they perform during a match. Perhaps Harry Wilson is the best example of this, with the attack-minded midfielder doing enough eye-catching things at Derby County last season to cause some supporters to think he should be given a chance in our team this time out. Yet in the pre-season games he’s shown that his decision making isn’t great, often taking too many people on when a simple pass is the easier option. The manager will try to coach that out of him, I’m sure, but if he’s not a quick learner and that’s demonstrated in the games then how long should the German persist with him? All of that is information that we simply don’t have at home, so instead of watching players go through learning curves or being tested out in new positions, the televised nature of the games turn them into far more competitive events that are taken too seriously by some.

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