Liverpool Reborn. How I Got Lots Right About New Reds, But Got Two Big Things Wrong
Liverpool improving in ways I expected, but some nice surprises and humble pie, too
After the Brighton game I was furious. That team had to go, I said – perhaps sounding like an bratty teenager, but it felt like a breaking point.
But after subsequent defeats, I noted that, indeed, it had gone.
I never meant all eleven players, clearly. Just the ‘team’, as it was, that averaged almost 30 years of age; with several to remain part of the equation.
I’ve implied that the car was still a Ferrari, but the engine was kaput.
Indeed, with the rapid improvement of the new signings and the return to form of Mo Salah, I now think that Liverpool now have the best and deepest set of attackers in the league, especially when Luis Díaz is fit again. (That said, it’s in part due to Roberto Firmino being a bonus in his final couple of months, with Cody Gakpo having essentially replaced him ahead of time – which is smart thinking.)
I’ve talked about a new team forming from within the chrysalis of the old team, and we are now seeing it clearly.
The new engine – mixing metaphors – while not complete, is impressing again. Just to confuse matters further, this is a team full of thoroughbreds.
The old players were not to be consigned to the garbage heap, but too many at once was not working, as was clear since the opening day at Fulham.
A lot of that had been down to injuries, but the time given to players like Harvey Elliott and Stefan Bajcetic has seen them grow into real first-teamers, and the new buys have settled. They giving the team some vrrrrmmm, and aren't anywhere near their peak yet. They’re helping energise the older players, too.
Even now I’m seeing talk of about how bad Liverpool’s season has been with no mention of the massive injury crisis that ran until recently, and which is now down to just three or four players from the first-team squad.
Three or four is manageable (currently just the elite Luis Díaz and Thiago, and the once-elite Joe Gomez who is still trying to find consistency after several shocking knee injuries; and hugely promising right-back Calvin Ramsay, beset with growing pains, and Arthur Melo getting fit again); 6-12 is not.
Take 6-12 of the best players out of any team/squad, and in particular, decimate any single section of the team at the same time, and you simply cannot be as good. The data shows it, consistently.
More injuries = fewer points.
You may still win some games, but it’s utterly illogical to expect to be as good as when everyone is fit, which in turn strengthens the bench massively, too. So a double-blow that Liverpool had has become a double-bonus, with top players as subs to bring on.
Before moving onto the bulk of this article, which looks at how things are starting to come together as I expected (but also a couple of things I got wrong, and areas where my expectations are actually being exceeded), I still think the first in this free three-part series I wrote over a month ago explains the difficulties behind a lot of this season, and can't be emphasised enough. I don’t think you can consider anything about this season without reading that.
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