So, is everyone done lighting stuff on fire now? Good. Yesterday’s match against Notts County was not one for the faint of heart - or for the superbold of keyboard, as the Matchday Thread and recap comments might suggest.
All told, there was much to be disappointed in if you wanted to that route: squad selections (GERRARD!! TOURE!!!! STURRIDGE!!! RRRAAAABBBBLLLLEEE!!!), injuries, transfer failures. You even have a glorious game of masochistic combinations if you like: injuries due to squad selections, squad selections due to transfer failings and AAARRRGGGHHHH WHY ARE MY EYES BLEEDING?!?!
Yes, everything IS the worst. Or, at the very least, can be if you choose to eat from the smorgasboard of awful that you were treated to yesterday.
Or…you know…you could not.
Deconstructing the things that occurred during last night’s match and then lining them up with the largely overblown narrative making the rounds on Twitter and even here (a usually fair-minded community, to be fair) is important, I think, to gain some perspective and might help others to join the Memorial Neb Bandwagon of Optimism (AKA: We’ve Just Won Three Matches to Start the Year People, RELAX). So, with that good intention (those NEVER go unpunished, right?) let’s get on with it:
Myth #1: Ian Ayre is a dunce and THAT’S why Papadapolous (SP?)/Alderwield/Sakho aren’t in Red and Kolo had to play and ohmigodwhyamicryingipromisedmyselfiwouldntdothis!!!!
This myth SHOULD have been laid to rest over the past two transfer windows as Ayre and the front office in general have really done well to nab targets that should have been attainable and provide both an improvement to depth and overall squad quality. However, this has once again cropped up as the injuries that happened in the match hit the two areas that the squad was most thin at (both in quality and depth, coincidentally).
Now, is it fun to have whiffed so spectacularly on three really talented and "perfect" targets for our system in Mkhitaryan (if I spelled that correctly without looking, I deserve ALL the recs and bourbon, folks), Costa and Willian? No. But who did we "lose" these targets out to? Three teams with Champions League football to offer and significantly better domestic standing in their own leagues than Liverpool currently have.
Some may argue that we were ONLY x-amount away from any of these guys both in wages and in transfer fees, but even with ignoring the seemingly amazing journalistic abilities of so many fans that suddenly became both transfer market, tactical AND financial experts (all while judging others on how to spend money that isn’t their own, I might add) it still misses the boat: LFC are trying to build a foundation that supports winning not only now but for the long-term. Blowing up your wage structure or signaling to the world that you’ve got all the money and are willing to pay insane amounts for anyone just to get them in the squad do nothing to accomplish those aims. Need proof? See Comolli and his ice cream truck.
Moreover, it glosses over the fine work that Ayre and the scouting department have done in getting Daniel Sturridge (hey, remember when so many of the same people yelling now were completely all pitchfork-y over this signing?) and Coutinho (ditto for said people wondering if he was "made for the British game" and "he’s not marquee because Inter wouldn’t let ‘good’ players leave, grumble, grumble…") as well as unearthing some really solid performers that already prove to be an improvement on depth and overall quality in Aspas (sure, he needs to find his scoring boots but between his movement and vision, we’re not too far off now, are we?) and in Alberto (loved Jonjo but Alberto is better suited for this squad).
Really, people, we can’t swing from "Ayre really hit it out of the park" to "damn, that man and his stupid motorcycle" that quickly.
And, really, this was all an appetizer for…
Myth #2: FSG are just a bunch of skinflints and we need oil money and SIGNALLTHEPLAYERSANDDAMNALLIDEASOFLOGICALSQUADBUILDINGJUSTWINNOWDAMMIT!!!
This is, undoubtedly, one of the biggest pet peeves of mine. Yes, full disclosure, I’m an American (yay!), so you can say that I’ve got at least a bit of vested interest in making sure that this works out better than the last tenure by those that shall remain nameless.
Still, I think that both the misunderstanding of Moneyball and how these owners operate within that concept leads to a lot of off-base opinions. To start, Moneyball isn’t about finding "cheap" or "less talented" players, it’s about ensuring that, given relative financial constraints (and, "relative" is the operative word here) that you make "smart" decisions. The way this is done is by finding inefficiencies in the market as well as defining what measurably good individual contributions are. (This is a VERY surface-level synopsis of Moneyball and, if anyone is interested, I can e-mail a link to a blog I wrote…in deference to the wonderful editors of this site and community, I won’t link to it here.)
That aside, I think the actions of FSG over their tenure has also been reasonable AND in direct opposition to the "miserly" narrative that people are also running with as part of this myth. Anyone remember Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing? Neither of those albatross contracts are on our books anymore thanks to Ian Ayre, Brendan Rodgers and FSG. But remembering all of the same (justified) criticisms about overpaying for lower-tier talent and I think we’ve got a bit of logical dissonance: you can’t both be overspending for terrible players AND, conversely, be miserly. Those things don’t compute.
I think the truth, really, is that we’re building that foundation. Looking over the squad now as opposed to this time two years ago, I think we’d all agree that we’re in a better position from a quality and depth standpoint (injuries notwithstanding).
Myth #3: We need to splash the cash now.
While I, like most fans, want a shiny new Mata/Turan/Griezemann to play with, there are more factors to just talent that we have to deal with (ok, obvious, but whatever, it bears stating). Chief among them is that if we DO want FSG to be responsible stewards, we can’t just expect them to make flashy signings and big deals ALL THE TIME for the sake of doing it.
Wage structures and transfer funds are nice to speak about in the abstract, but what we really want is to have a club that won’t fold because the owners managed to run it into the ground AND a club that will compete with the best in the league/Europe, right? Neither is necessarily mutually exclusive but, from my vantage point, these owners are making moves with the longview (see, first goal) in mind. As supporters, this may make for a long and painstaking approach, but it’s also the one that should avoid seeing LFC falling under administration. Patience is not commonly familiar in a fan’s dictionary, but we could all do with some now.
All told, we can agree that any of the targets we’ve "missed" on would have been awesome to see in Red. But we’ve also won 3 of 3 without them (or Luis Suarez) so, maybe, we’ll be ok? I know that things look bleak now, but that little ray of sunshine is only three more matches without the best player in the Prem last year and, hopefully, a few more reinforcements coming down the pipeline.
Even if we don’t get them, however, I like this squad and I like their spirit. Beating a team that managed to come back against us…down a man…on tired legs and after watching major players go down injured? That takes a real togetherness. As a stats person, I usually like to take a view at more measurable things, but I think with everything that happened yesterday, the only measurement that matters is 4-2, Liverpool.