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Is Norwich A "Must Win Game?"

With Rodgers on the proverbial hot seat, the phrase "Must win game" has started circulating around the footballing world regarding tomorrow's Liverpool-Norwich clash. But is it really?

Rodgers in the hot seat?
Rodgers in the hot seat?
Tony Marshall/Getty Images

There are few phrases short of "Daniel Sturridge injury" and "Set piece defense" that strikes as much fear into Liverpool supporters' hearts as "Must win game." The only times this phrase gets tossed about are when Liverpool are threatening to actually win something (which as we know from the equation ETB=ETW can only end in heartbreak) or when a manager is about to get canned.

Sure, many of us would not be terribly upset to see Rodgers go given our current form, but it's still a sad refection on the state of the club whenever a manager is down to a perceived "Must win game."

So, is Norwich that game?

I may lack the psychic ability of some of our players, but it's worth the mental exercise to put ourselves in FSG's comfy New Balance shoes.

First, let's do away with the notion of "Must win" entirely. Winning vs. Not winning puts us into a binary mindset. It's too black and white, and never a good way to go about making decisions based on complex problems. Instead of this binary system based on tomorrow's scoreline, let's create a nine-point sliding scale based on tomorrow's performance.

Seeing an improved performance is really what we're interested in, right? For examples, we need to look no further than our opening three matches. Fans were generally more pleased with the performance of our scoreless draw against Arsenal than our winning scorelines against Stoke and Bournemouth. As such, let's list out some possibilities based on tomorrow's potential outcomes (from worst to best):

  1. Bad Loss, Woeful Performance: Liverpool concede early and often, and never create dangerous chances on the other end. Rodgers is slow to react with tactical and personnel changes.
  2. Close Loss, Bad Performance: Same as above, only with worse finishing from Norwich. Result slightly flatters Liverpool.
  3. Draw, Bad Performance: Liverpool are lucky to be escaping with a point after some variation of horrible Norwich finishing, and/or Liverpool wonderstrike, and/or horrible refereeing.
  4. Win, Bad Performance: Same as above, only this time Liverpool win.
  5. Loss/Draw/Win, Average Performance: Game could have gone either way. Can't really say any result is unfair, but it doesn't tell us much about the team.
  6. Loss, Good Performance: The Karma gods are back and pissed. Still, lots of positives to take away.
  7. Draw, Good Performance: Liverpool were really unlucky to not trot out victorious. Could have easily been a multiple goal win were it not from poor finishing/horrible defensive error/bad decision/world class goal keeping.
  8. Close Win, Good Performance: We finally see some indication that things are turning around. Or maybe Norwich is really bad.
  9. Big Win, Great Performance: FINALLY! This is the team we've been waiting to see for the last year!
These categories are still far too broad, but I think they give us a better platform from which to judge tomorrow's performance. Let's judge our competitive matches so far using these categories:
  • At Stoke: Category 5
  • Bournemouth: Category 5
  • At Arsenal: Category 7 (arguably 5)
  • West Ham: Category 1
  • At Manchester United: Category 1
  • At Bordeaux: Category 7 (again, arguably 5)
The two results to West Ham and United immediately stand out, as does the fact that we've not really had a good victory so far. Our only two "good" performances were arguably average, and neither led Liverpool to taking all 3 points.

My general feeling at this juncture is that it'll probably take something much closer to a Category 1 or 2 performance to make FSG think seriously about immediate termination. Anything from Category 3 on up (oh please let it be much farther up) will probably allow Rodgers to carry on just a bit longer.

As such, it's probably not a "Must win" game as much as it is a "Don't get smoked" game. 1-2 is Rodgers' Danger Zone, which will certainly continue to rise unless the results dramatically improve. FSG has (so far) not been the reactionary type of owners, and I can't see that changing unless things just fall off a cliff for the Brenny and the Reds.

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