Author Topic: Stupid Football  (Read 24142 times)

royhendo

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Stupid Football
« on: March 22, 2012, 07:50:56 AM »
(From a few weeks ago - I wrote it after Arsenal.)


http://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2012/03/stupid-football/

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IN the emotional aftermath of the Carling Cup Final, I tweeted the following to a mate.

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I understand @Knox_Harrington ‘s point about a stupid team now. A lot of stupid stuff today. But it’s a WIN!!!!!

@Knox_Harrington is of course Neil Atkinson, Host of The Anfield Wrap Podcast (and soon to be host of The Anfield Wrap radio show). If you’re a regular listener, you’ll know that Neil has a strongly held (and increasingly persuasive) view that in its current incarnation, Liverpool Football Club is a stupid football team, choc full with stupid footballers, individually and collectively playing far too much stupid football.

It’s a subject close to my heart.

At any time in a game, let alone when we’re 2-1 up in extra time with the clock ticking into the final seconds, just keep the ball. Don’t even give them the chance to get back into it. Put the foot on their throat and choke the life out of their resistance.

Don’t give away needless corners or stupid frees in decent crossing positions. Concentrate. Don’t switch off and let your marker ghost in behind you into spots where he might hurt us. Don’t play blind square balls to your team mates when you’re not sure what lurks behind you. Don’t take that extra touch when you have three free runners breaking into space around the opposing box. Keep the ball! Don’t dive in and concede stupid fouls when your mark’s going nowhere and he’s under pressure. Don’t force it when you could be pegging them back and building your confidence and momentum and tempo. Keep the pressure on them. Keep the ball!

It’s simple really. Football’s all about pressure.

Do things that help you exert and sustain your team’s pressure, and don’t allow them to exert and sustain theirs. Don’t do things that squander or dissipate your pressure, or allow them to apply more of theirs.

At its best, Liverpool’s football was pure pressure football. We had teams and squads full of players with the sang froid to take whatever the other side threw at them, and the ruthlessness to torture them for as long as we could at the other end.

We were fast, we were strong, we moved it one touch at speeds that burst the lungs of the opposing players… but at the root of it all, we tended to be crafty, not least when the moment of truth arrived. Of course, we weren’t perfect. Everyone remembers times when, either individually or collectively, a brain fart cost us dear. There’s never been a perfect side in that respect, no matter what you read about the current Barca side, or Sacchi’s Milan, or whichever other name that’s trotted out. You only had to watch Revista De La Liga the other night to see Guardiola berating Alexis Sanchez for needlessly getting himself needlessly sent off. They might have been winning, but they went down to 9 men and invited suspensions. Stupid football.
Everyone does it from time to time. It’s boxing clever when it comes to the crunch that matters.


GOING BEYOND ‘MENTALITY’

The twin pillars of modern football discourse must surely be “mentality” and “football intelligence”, no? In the old days, people talked about old heads on young shoulders, and football brains, and people being five yards quicker than everyone else in their heads. Common sense. But as soon as a standardised coaching curriculum started to emerge, and UEFA started holding managerial summits and issuing coaching newsletters, those two terms slowly took hold in the game.

But is a strong mentality enough in itself? Can a footballer or group of footballers have the perfect mentality and still play stupid football?
To manage the stupid football out of your club, you need to demand more from your players and staff than simply insisting on a strong ‘mentality’ – that they’ll run through brick walls for you, and that their attitude, fighting spirit, eagerness to train and improve, team ethic and positivity are all first class. You can spot all those qualities in a player and still sign a dunderhead.
Those things should be a foundation to build on, but the work shouldn’t stop there. If you’re managing a club with its own distinct expectations and style of play, and if coupled with that you have any pretentions towards trophy winning domination, you need at least a core of players with the mental bandwidth to embody every aspect of your approach: what your club stands for in footballing terms, the balance of play, the systems you’ll use, the footballing and personal qualities of team mates… all the way down to the minutiae of set piece drills, to how far in advance you’re expected to show up for team meetings.

That’s not easy of course, but intelligence is the one quality that’s always set aside the genuinely great sides. They’ve all had that little bit extra up top, at least in footballing terms.



THE ROYAL MARINES AND ‘DISLOCATED EXPECTATIONS’

Along with that base of intelligence, you need calm heads both between and behind enemy lines, as well as resilience and organisation when you’re under attack. It’s little surprise that the Armed Forces are a step ahead on this front.

In Clive Woodward’s “Winning”, we discover that in 1999, the English rugby team did a two day team building exercise with the Royal Marines. It would fundamentally change their approach to their game. Lieutentant Nathan Martin addressed the squad at the end.

“Gentlemen, what you’ve experienced is as near as possible a simulation of an operational mission. Your briefings changed on an hourly basis. In battle, nothing goes to plan. You might find some similarities with game plans on the… pitch, only in war a mistake costs you your life. Not only that, one mistake by a team-mate can cost the whole squad their lives. We have a saying here… when referrring to fellow Marines: Would you go into battle with him? If the answer is yes, it means you have absolute faith in that team member’s skills and abilities, that he will think correctly under pressure, and that your life is safe in his hands.

On the battlefield a Marine is taught to assess his situation and re-evaluate his mission on a constant basis. There is only one thing you can count on in a battle situation: that events never go according to plan. We call that Dislocated Expetations, and it’s what we’ve subjected you to several times in the last forty-eight hours whilst putting you through mentally and physically challenging conditions.”

Clive Woodward later described how the experience affected his management.

Quote
“…I realised that for two years I had been making some fundamental errors on player selection …a critical factor in selection had eluded me.
On the last day of our visit, I’d asked several of the senior officers for an honest assessment of the players…

‘OK, if you want to hear it,’ eventually began one of the senior training instructors… ‘There are men in your squad whom we wouldn’t go into battle with.’ He then rattled of their names in quick succession. …It’s not about their skills, Clive. It’s about their attitude and their effect on the team. There are hundreds of soldiers who can run for three days, think on their feet, and handle a weapon. But some of them simply aren’t suited to working in high-pressure team situations. It might be the smallest trait, like a bit of a moan when the going gets tough. Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t have any effect. But in high-pressure combat situations just that one negative trait can destroy a whole team. We are trained to identify these clues because the consequences for us are so serious. It’s the difference between life and death. One wrong team player can sap all the energy from the group.”

Of course, the stakes are different in football, as in rugby. If Charlie Adam fails to spot Jordan Henderson’s lung bursting run into the box in the closing stages, nobody is actually going to die. But the end goals are much the same – to win, or at least avoid defeat.

Stop and think about it for even a minute, and you start assessing our current squad in similar terms. Would you trust them to make the right choices and keep a clear head? It’s not all about flared nostrils and kissing the badge – it’s about quietly doing what hurst the opposing side most. If a player let you down consistently on that front, would you be ruthless with them and bring in new blood?



THINKING CORRECTLY UNDER PRESSURE

Woodward borrowed several of the Royal Marines’ methods – the notions of “Dislocated Expectations” and “Thinking Correctly Under Pressure” informed much of their coaching in the lead up to the 2003 World Cup victory by helping them manage the stupidity out of their game (and at all levels). Examples include the “Crossbar, Touchline, Corners” routine to improve their vision and awareness of where everyone was on the park, and “30 seconds to score”, to encourage drilled behaviours and calm in the closing stages of tight games.

Of course, it’s easy to dismiss the impact of these techniques as managerial fluff, as their squad at the time boasted genuine world class and unrivalled top level experience, and in the kind of depth that no other squad could match. But what led them to that point? Their processes, from the way they dealt with sponsors, to email protocols, to the biggies like team selection, were all influenced by the constant desire to squeeze every drop of avoidable stupidity out of the equation.

One of the key points covered in every team meeting was “Our Team Self-Control”. Training regularly involved a top level ref. When penalties were conceded in training games, Woodward and the coaches would tell the player “thanks, you just cost us the World Cup”. They were coached to listen to and work with the refs, and in ways to influence and put pressure on the refs. In light of that, it’s no surprise that they were also made to learn the rules.

In terms of their style of play, their coaching focussed as much on learning to intimidate and put pressure on the man they were marking, and ironing out blips in their communication, as it did on passing drills and set pieces. They were assessed on all aspects equally, and questions were asked if standards slipped.

But it’s the way it informed selection that’s most interesting. Woodward admitted as much.

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“…I realised that for two years, I had been making some fundamental errors on player selection. Unfortunately, all I could do was catalogue these thoughts. We were eight weeks from the World Cup. …I admitted that, if I had my time again, I would make the hard choice and bring in the new players immediately so that they could gain the experience sooner. …Post World Cup it was now all about making the correct decisions under pressure.”

Even if you’ve never watched a game of rugby in your life, let alone played it, you’ll surely know what happened in that World Cup Final in Sydney in 2003. How the pressure came to bear. How the ball soared between the sticks with seconds to spare – icy calm from the entire side and its star player when the moment of truth came.

It took a lot of time, heart ache, and hard-won lessons to bring the team to the level it ultimately reached, with a lot of players winnowed out of the mix in the process through gradual refinement. And interestingly, when the wheels came off post-2003, enough of it was retained in the group to see them through to the 2007 Final again. Good habits die hard, it seems.

A squad full of players with enough skill and technique (and in some cases truly world class vision and technique) and the right basic mentality. But beyond that, players who could think correctly under even the most extreme pressure, no matter how big the game. Imagine a Liverpool squad that could boast the same, eh?

Well, it’s not that hard to imagine. Our greatest sides (and that’s ‘sides’ – not many clubs can use the plural) could make that exact same boast, and sustained that truly elite level for as long as any sporting institution has in history. It’s still there in the club’s DNA, and recent years have done nothing but reinforce those memories, at least among older fans.

In terms of thinking correctly under pressure, Rome away in 1984 must surely rank as one of the greatest examples ever. That was the level we’d reached at the time, and we knew how good we were.

Contrast that with our current squad. The showings at Wembley and Anfield this last few weeks have maybe shown us where we are in our progression. On balance, we can be a very stupid side, filled with very stupid players. But on the one hand, we just about mustered enough grit to get over the line. On the other, when the moment of truth came, we blew it – not once – but enough times that failure seemed inevitable.



THINKING LIKE AN IDIOT UNDER PRESSURE

While Martin Kelly’s airshot in front of the open Arsenal goal will no doubt haunt me for years, it’s maybe fair to say that these things happen from time to time, particularly when you’re not quite the finished machine-like article. But elsewhere in the game, Kelly, usually a clever player, seemed to freeze mentally. Midway through the second half, with the box gaping ahead of him and the ball at his feet, he turned and looked for the man inside. Why? Well, because he wasn’t thinking clearly, obviously.

Is that a reflection on him as a player? Well, I’d say it’s not. I mention Kelly because, unlike certain others in the side, he’s been far from prone to stupid football this season.

Contrast that with Stuart Downing. With Suarez bearing down on goal and unmarked, the England international and supposed Premier League assist machine somehow contrived to sclaff his squared pass into the keeper’s grasp and deprive Suarez of what would surely have been the winning goal. How did that happen? How has the calm, consistent and sensible football he’s played throughout his career somehow deserted him this season?

The answer, one might argue, is pressure. At Liverpool, the belief will never really disappear that the club is somehow entitled to success. And with that expectation comes pressure – from the fans, from the media, and from the staff within the club – pressure that, even with top level experience, a player can struggle to adjust to. Downing, however, was one player who I believed could cope with that increased pressure – that was what kind of justified the premium we paid for him in my mind – that he was somehow a ‘sure thing’. But it seems he’s suffering from brain freeze, and I’d put that down to his thus far being unable to adjust to that pressure.

A player has to believe in his own ability to perform. So it’s illustrative to contrast his standard Premier League form with the Carling Cup Final display against Cardiff. He played as if somehow unshackled, unlike most of his team mates – and slotted the perfect penalty in cold blood – what was all that about? Surely that was a pressure game, no? Well, in a way, no – it’s possible that he believed more in his ability to hurt Cardiff than he had against any other side he’d faced this season.

It’s been a surprise, but Downing’s problems have been between his ears. And the same is often true of the group as a whole. The most glaring flaws in our play this season have been an inability to organise and keep pressure on the visiting side at Anfield, allowing them a foothold in the game, and simultaneously the tendency to play too ambitious and direct a game when we ought to be building and sustaining momentum and tempo. Do that and you build pressure – and we have more than enough footballing quality to play that kind of game. Try the more ambitious ball when it’s not really on, and you’re giving the other side a chance to rebuild their confidence and calm.
The flip side is neglecting the basic stuff when it is on, of course. When it looks like the ball might be coming in at pace, make the run to the front stick across your marker! Don’t stand and smoke your pipe on the edge of the D. When you’re running with the ball at your feet and you have support, move the ball as early as possible to the man who can hurt them the most. Lift your head and it’ll happen naturally!! The grass is flat – the ball will roll – you shouldn’t have to keep an eye on it!

And then, of course, the finishing. Hit the ball early. Don’t prevaricate, and keep a cool head. It’s easier said than done. And that makes you think – is this an issue that’s more about scouting criteria than it is about coaching?
Get the right player in, after all, and he’ll solve problems for you rather than passing them on to a colleague.



THE CURIOUS CASE OF CRAIG BELLAMY

It seems that for Craig Bellamy, the phrase ‘mental architecture’ doesn’t just extend to recreating Tony Montana’s mansion. In telling us the news that at the age of 32,Bellamy is ‘the sprint king of the Premier League’, Jason Burt of The Telegraph added that Bellamy “has worked closely with Steve Peters, the sports psychologist, who is best-known for his links with British cycling and Mark Cavendish in particular”.

That’s not strictly correct – Steve Peters is actually a psychiatrist – but joining the dots, you can understand how it might have happened. Bellamy, a mercurial talent throughout his career, had always had trouble settling, and had often courted controversy along the way, squandering career opportunities as he went. So when he washed up at Manchester City, not too far from the British Cycling Team’s headquarters, it was maybe natural that he sought out Peters, or that someone suggested he should. In 2007, Peters himself admitted that he’d worked with Premier League footballers, and that “It’s the public perception that these lads are not intellectual, which is often wrong.”

I’ve been boring whoever will listen for years with the suggestion that Liverpool FC should be talking to this guy. Dave Brailsford, the man who has presided over the British Cycling Team’s rise to prominence in recent years, sought Peters out as someone who deals with root causes rather than symptoms. Remember a year or two back when Arsene Wenger’s team talk before a Champions League tie was leaked to the press? Stay positive. Stay calm. Be all you can be? There’s a problem with that approach. If there’s some fundamental weakness in your ‘mental architecture’, you might master all the positive thinking techniques in the world, but when the moment of truth comes, your insecurity’s gonna call it all into question, and you’re far more likely to freeze.

His approach is neatly summarised in Richard Moore’s excellent “Heroes, Villains & Velodromes”. Peters himself explains the subtle difference between his forensic psychiatrist’s approach, and standard sports psychology.
“Sports psychology uses psychological techniques in training and competition,” he says. “And that can be very useful. But I look at the personality. I reconstruct the personality, someone’s beliefs around themselves, their understanding of their own mind, how it functions. …A psychologist can teach you how to drive the car, but the psychiatrist lifts the bonnet, looks at the machine, takes it to pieces and reconstructs it. And then,” he adds with a smile, “I teach them how to drive the car.”

So rather than a adding a lick of paint and doing some hoovering, Peters sets about finding the root causes of ‘stupid’, and finds a way to re-jig the mental architecture to help the athlete manage stupidity out of the equation – as far as possible, at least. This enabling approach equips them to manage the way they operate under pressure – helping them differentiate, as he puts it, between emotional and logical thinking.

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“Emotional thoughts can hijack you. Look at a footballer taking a penalty. Whether one person or 10 million are watching, it doesn’t change how you kick a ball; what does change is the mind. You start thinking about consequences; ego gets in the way.

…There are parts of your brain which are going to send you into chaos. …If you invest a lot in something, or you have a belief system around something, and it goes wrong, then you go into chaos. An elite athlete who believes the whole of their value in life depends on them getting a medal… if it doesn’t go according to plan then they are likely to cave in, or become aggressive.”
The ‘patient’ whose time with Peters has enjoyed most coverage has been Sir Chris Hoy. Shortly after panic had scuppered his chances when a Gold medal beckoned at a World Championships, Hoy asked Peters “How do I get into the right mindset to be able to focus on what I do and not be distracted? How do I avoid thinking emotionally, and losing the game plan?”

Peters tackled the issue by helping Hoy introject the concept of Dislocated Expectations, and build for himself the mental architecture to cope. That process allowed Hoy, faced with mounting pressure and setback after setback, to slot into the zone when the moment of truth came in Athens 2004 (as well as many times since).

Quote
“In a nutshell” says Peters, “you’ve got to switch from using one part of your brain to another. You have to learn which part of your brain is operating, and why it’s operating, and then when you’ve learnt that, you switch it off, and switch on the bit you want… and you learn the skill of controlling that. That’s what Chris did. And he did it very easily. He could see the reasoning, he understood it, and he learnt to do it. He mastered it.”

“…How would you react to a fast time by one of your rivals while you’re waiting to go? How would you react to a world record? You have to visualise these scenarios. I have to dig into a person’s mind to do this. But the part of your brain I want to work is the logical part. That part of your brain I want to turn off, or control, is emotional. Your emotions aren’t rational. They create irrational thoughts that can mislead you.”

So it’s arguably manageable, given the right raw materials to work with. Bellamy, Liverpool’s standout performer this season to date, is living proof.



SO SHOULD WE BE MANAGING IT BETTER?

It’s clear that Liverpool FC have room for improvement in managing ‘stupid’ out of their operations at all levels. That should come as no surprise given that until very recently, the club was run by Statler, Waldorf and Herve Villechaize. By the end of their tenure, stupidity had seeped in at every level. But somehow a core of sanity within and around the club saw it through the big crisis. It’s nice to get back to storms in teacups feeling like doomsday every second week against that backdrop.

So are the club taking steps to continually squeeze stupidity out of the equation? Well, there’s evidence both for and against that suggestion, and that’s only natural at this stage – how are the club going to progress and learn if they’re not willing to make the occasional mistake along the way?
You just hope it’s a key driver on all levels. When we deal with a sponsor, are we doing it in a way that protects our integrity long-term? When the medical team treats a player, are we making sure we get him right for good, rather than rushing him back? Are we helping our players find sustainable ways to deal with pressure on and off the pitch? Are we equipping them with a clear game plan, and style of play, and with winning habits?

Reading Ian Ladyman’s Glen Johnson interview, you get a clear picture of Kenny Dalglish’s approach with his players.

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‘…We are a tight unit. We defend together and do everything together. We are close on and off the pitch. Kenny Dalglish is good at that. He places an emphasis on it and makes sure he involves everybody. We look forward to going into training and you can see that on people’s faces.

That’s a big part of it, but it maybe isn’t enough in itself. The group feels like it could go into battle together, but maybe lacks the insight to understand where their efforts are being undermined.

That said, things seem increasingly right at Academy and Reserve level, and given time, that’ll make a massive difference. You just hope the scouts, while assessing talent, are looking at clever players who are ruthless and thrive under pressure – that has to be a key driver for us. We need to be filtering out the stupid football at source – if you can avoid it, don’t let people who make bad decisions or wilt under pressure into the club. It’s never an exact science, of course, but if it’s a key driver, we’ll get better at it. At the minute, it seems far more important to the club than the industry buzz around on-pitch statistical metrics.

A clever side, lacking in ability or power, can do great things. A side that can rework its game plan and manage pressure as a group can punch well above its weight at any level. It takes time and commitment though, and the right approach and support behind the scenes.

You can’t point at any snapshot in time and say that things are 100% right – that’ll never be true at any club, or in any competitive environment. People will always make stupid decisions. It’s inevitable. The time-consuming part is ironing them out, and eliminating them when the decisive moments come.
Are we working hard enough on this front? Only time will tell. But given FSG’s typical approach, you’d expect them to commit to boxing clever, and to make that commitment long term.

Offline Discipline

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2012, 07:53:00 AM »
I swear we really need to learn how to defend and take advantage of corners.

We've conceded atleast 5 goals just in the league from an opposition corner kick from the top of my head.
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Offline Chakan

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2012, 08:08:25 AM »
Great read thanks!

Football is 50% skill and 50% mentality I would say. Do the skill part right and your mind can let you down and make you out to be an idiot.

We've had the skill the season, look at all the chances we have created, you don't do that by luck, what has been lacking is that mentality infront of goal. The cool calmness to place the shot where you want and finish off a team. 0-0 at half time against QPR with what 11 corners in 10 minutes? Skill got us there, mentality should have finished it off. Going into half time with a 2-0/3-0 lead would have killed them off. I have no doubt about that. But we didn't and the rest is history.

We're lacking the mentality to compete. Which is strange as we have Kenny at the helm one of the people I thought would be able to instill that winning mentality into the team.

The problem yesterday as well was we had Kuyt, Gerrard, Carragher on the pitch, 3 people who have been there and done that and have the mentality for a winning team? So what went wrong?

Anyway we need to bring in mentally strong people, looking at the signings this season: Adam - 1 season in the Premier league, got relegated, winning mentality? Downing - played for Aston Villa - very low pressure premier league side, winning mentality? Carroll -  1 season in the premier league with Newcastle who had very little pressure on him there, winning mentality? Henderson - played at Sunderland a low pressure premier league side, this guy I think does have that winning mentality. Suarez - Ajax Dutch champs, lots of pressure, is it any surprise he's been our best performer?

We need to start signing people who have had to deal with the pressure of performing at a top club/country. Bringing people in who are used to pressure and have a winning mentality will do more for this club than just bringing in people with skill.

Our defense was fine until Agger and Johnson got injured. We need to address an adequate under study for Enrique. Kelly is young so I can understand the brain freeze. That comes with time I think.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2012, 08:11:14 AM by Chakan »

Offline Red in Korea

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2012, 08:29:41 AM »
One thing that impressed me in the FA Cup win against Stoke is how we controlled the game after we went 2-1 up. After the QPR game last night, I can only assume that happened by accident.
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Offline Hank Scorpio

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2012, 08:45:12 AM »
Thanks for sharing this with us Roy.  Always learn a lot from your threads.

I remember reading Michels book and he outlined that what he most required from his players was the ability to think for themselves.  Make decisions out there on the pitch when the environment is changing.  Basically it is the ability to adapt.

It's hugely important in any walk of life because the external environment is never static.  So there is no one great masterplan for football or life.  You have to be able to analyse and adapt your approach.

I think we had that in 08-09 and for the most part leading up to that season.  But the problem was that the 'brain' of the team was all invested, more or less, in one player.  And when that player was removed we suffered.  I think we've seen Lucas develop nicely since then, despite a tough start.  But you'd like to think that that mentality forms as part of the team identity rather than in one player.

Offline kwalitee, no?

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2012, 08:57:55 AM »
That was a good read for early in the morning Roy. I think you've hit the nail on the head, it's what I've been describing as brainless when talking about some of our football with friends. I also think that it's the main thing we miss about Lucas, his intelligence. The part about switching off the emotional part of the brain is interesting, I seem to remember Rafa saying that he didn't celebrate our goals as he believed that he needed to remain focussed at all times.

With reference to the England rugby team of 2003, I remember a moment just before the teams walked onto the pitch when Martin Johnson turned to speak to the team but then said nothing. Afterwards, he said that when he looked into their eyes he knew he didn't need to say anything.

By the time the most recent world cup came round I think you could say that the England team had pretty much lost their ability to think correctly under pressure. They gave away stupid penalty after stupid penalty, the sort of thing that Brian Moore describes in commentary as "Dull". It is most interesting from my point of view that with a change of coach & the use of young, inexperienced players the current England squad has made huge leaps in this area during the course of the 6 nations.

I suppose the relevance to our situation is the question about using young, inexperienced players. Is it better to use a young player who may make mistakes associated with youth and inexperience or to use an experienced player who just does brainless things over and over again? Do you think Roy, that by using someone like Peters that it would be possible to educate the brainless mistakes out of the games of some of our players? I would also be interested in how long this sort of re-education (for want of a better way of describing it) would take.

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2012, 08:59:43 AM »
Lovely stuff Big Man, this will go on the front page in a wee while. :wave

Offline steveeastend

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2012, 09:15:49 AM »
Great OP!

To me it´s the same over and over again. It´s the quality we are missing. We desperately try to play top pass and move kind of football with too many average skilled players.

As soon as Gerrard was 100% fit and into a game, linking up in the final third with his team mates we started to score. Because we were lacking this kind of top quality.

As soon as Skrtel and Agger got a run of games we started a run of clean sheets and top defending performances. Both internationals and in their prime.

It´s that simple, our vision of football is great but we don´t have the personell to play this sort of game so far. If everything comes together nicely it works but not for winning on a regular basis.

We still need top quality signings, if not we will stuck in philosphy about our "stupid" team. ;)

Football is a cruel game, team spirit, all the best sympathy for the players and the manager can be shattered by football reality.

We have to be better and this first crisis for our new owners will show the style of their management. Long term in regards of players? Manager? Both? New top players and patience?


« Last Edit: March 22, 2012, 09:18:39 AM by steveeastend »
One thing does need to be said: in the post-Benitez era, there was media-led clamour (but also some politicking going on at the club) to make the club more English; the idea being that the club had lost the very essence of what it means to be ‘Liverpool’. Guillem Ballague 18/11/10

Offline moloch

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2012, 09:18:21 AM »
Brilliant read and how very poignant after the QPR fiasco.

royhendo

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2012, 09:27:27 AM »
Do you think Roy, that by using someone like Peters that it would be possible to educate the brainless mistakes out of the games of some of our players? I would also be interested in how long this sort of re-education (for want of a better way of describing it) would take.

There are two aspects for me mate. 1. Don't buy stupid players who make bad decisions. 2. Control the things that are controllable for all the players you do have.

The mental aspect, for me at least, seems controllable. Every player knows how to mark a man at a set piece, every player knows they should work hard to stop crosses coming into the box, not to do anything too fancy on the ball when losing it would put the back four or keeper under pressure (Enrique annoys me on this front). Mistakes happen from time to time, but surely a team needs to manage them out as much as possible. It's a chronic tendency just now in our game.

The example that prompted me writing this was Charlie Adam approaching a disrupted Arsenal back four with the ball at his feet and Jordan Henderson free in space with a chance to go one-on-one with the keeper. Adam keeps his head down and fails to make the pass, carries it on, and we lose the ball. That's stupid, and for me it's arguably in the first category (I stand corrected on Charlie re that aspect of his game).

Offline steveeastend

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2012, 09:41:09 AM »
I think a true leader, someone like Effenberg, Cantona, would lift the whole squad. Together with only one top talent, they both would not only replace two weak places in the first eleven, our ball circulation would be more stable, less stupid mistakes as a consequence and our not so good players would be lifted by that.

In todays football, it only needs one or two weak spots and you are vulnerable. The pressure on the ball is that high that it´s very hard to be without a mistake over the entire 90 minutes if the talent isn´t there and technique goes without any thinking.

Making up for mistakes cost energy which will be again missing when possessing the ball.

I think our mistakes are a consequence out of this.
One thing does need to be said: in the post-Benitez era, there was media-led clamour (but also some politicking going on at the club) to make the club more English; the idea being that the club had lost the very essence of what it means to be ‘Liverpool’. Guillem Ballague 18/11/10

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2012, 10:06:12 AM »
Superb writing Roy, and much to contemplate. We now have excellent medical staff, expanding that to include psych would be possibly pioneering and could potentially make a huge difference.

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2012, 10:07:35 AM »
There are two aspects for me mate. 1. Don't buy stupid players who make bad decisions. 2. Control the things that are controllable for all the players you do have.

The mental aspect, for me at least, seems controllable.
Every player knows how to mark a man at a set piece, every player knows they should work hard to stop crosses coming into the box, not to do anything too fancy on the ball when losing it would put the back four or keeper under pressure (Enrique annoys me on this front). Mistakes happen from time to time, but surely a team needs to manage them out as much as possible. It's a chronic tendency just now in our game.

The example that prompted me writing this was Charlie Adam approaching a disrupted Arsenal back four with the ball at his feet and Jordan Henderson free in space with a chance to go one-on-one with the keeper. Adam keeps his head down and fails to make the pass, carries it on, and we lose the ball. That's stupid, and for me it's arguably in the first category (I stand corrected on Charlie re that aspect of his game).

That's fair enough Roy. I suppose how well it works and how quickly would depend on the individual. I remember seeing an interview with Peters who said how impressed he had been with the willingness of the cyclists to go along with the process completely.  As for the Enrique & Adam situations that you refer to I think these are a part of their menatlities which underestimates the value of doing the simple things well. I'm not advocating hoofing into row Z here by the way just that I wonder if some players think that they should always be aiming for the more spectacular option. An interesting question would be whether Charlie Adam realised that he should have looked up or would he do the same again? Hmm?

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2012, 10:07:56 AM »
I think a true leader, someone like Effenberg, Cantona, would lift the whole squad. Together with only one top talent, they both would not only replace two weak places in the first eleven, our ball circulation would be more stable, less stupid mistakes as a consequence and our not so good players would be lifted by that.

In todays football, it only needs one or two weak spots and you are vulnerable. The pressure on the ball is that high that it´s very hard to be without a mistake over the entire 90 minutes if the talent isn´t there and technique goes without any thinking.

Making up for mistakes cost energy which will be again missing when possessing the ball.

I think our mistakes are a consequence out of this.

Remember when Cisse went off for QPR yesterday, he turned round and had a massive 'get stuck in' roar at his side. Nobody did that for us. Lacking energy levels could be a reason, but also awareness - don't switch off until the whistle goes, ever. Maybe it's a lesson we need to re-learn.
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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2012, 10:08:47 AM »
:wellin  Absolutely brilliant and insightful stuff Big Man. I'll see if my thoughts are along the lines that you're getting at. It's seems to be to me no coincidence that Bellamy got universally slated for stating something along the lines of winning medals was all he worried about when younger but has now realised that his career is no longer defined by if he wins medals, but instead whether he's played to his maximum performance in every game he plays. That may sound like the mentality of a loser at first glance, but it's obvious that it incorporates the philosophy that in the heat of battle, it's more about being able to produce the goods time after time. Getting to a cup final and saying things like "I can't contemplate defeat" is the real insidious problem because it heaps the pressure on yourself and your team. That level of pressure is far too difficult to cope with, especially if you concede goals, and ensures that the mentally weak amongst the group will cause them to make rash emotional decisions like "I've got to play the killer pass RIGHT NOW" "I've got to score AT THIS VERY MOMENT IN TIME" etc which only heaps on yet more pressure on themselves. That makes players make the wrong decision, Gerrard, Suarez and Carroll then berate them for making the wrong decision and inevitably it causes disharmony amongst the team, which heaps even more pressure on the individual and the team.

The fractious nature of playing the wrong ball ie the Charlie Adam scenario you mentioned, or even playing the right ball at the wrong time ie holding onto the ball 5 seconds too long for a player that's in the right space to receive it, cannot be underestimated. Calmness and intelligence is what's needed in the face of adversity, because pressure and emotions are the sure things to trigger recklessness. And as you rightly say, it's how you people cope in those situations, whether it's in a game, in business or even family life that will ultimately be the difference between making the right decision in the heat of the moment. people talk about playing with their heart on their sleeves, but I'd much sooner they played with their heart in their chest maintaining a regular beat and their brain out on display. In summary, Steve Peters is a genius; Anthony Robbins is a rent-a-quote fuckwit.
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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2012, 10:13:34 AM »
Fantastic piece of writing there. Was great to read.
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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #16 on: March 22, 2012, 10:15:19 AM »
Great piece.

Our team has been shown up for not being intelligent enough this season.

I think this is something Lucas brought to the side that largely, went unnoticed.  He always played the simple ball, the right ball to keep us ticking over.

Big season for some of the poorer players next season, they need to show they have learned to play for this club, and if they cannot do that we need to seriously look at replacements.

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #17 on: March 22, 2012, 10:17:04 AM »
Remember when Cisse went off for QPR yesterday, he turned round and had a massive 'get stuck in' roar at his side. Nobody did that for us. Lacking energy levels could be a reason, but also awareness - don't switch off until the whistle goes, ever. Maybe it's a lesson we need to re-learn.

As much as it´s hurts to say we are still in transition, maybe for the wrong reasons and the wrong purpose but it´s a fact.

And your point for sure is part of this as well as bringing in a true leader. We cannot rely on Lucas only.
One thing does need to be said: in the post-Benitez era, there was media-led clamour (but also some politicking going on at the club) to make the club more English; the idea being that the club had lost the very essence of what it means to be ‘Liverpool’. Guillem Ballague 18/11/10

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #18 on: March 22, 2012, 10:37:57 AM »
Food for thought there..

Our istanbul-team had 2 englishmen in the starting 11 (gerrard/carragher)
Our athens-team had 3 englishmen (never mind the irish and the welsh)
Milans athens-team had 7 italians in their starting 11..

For me - intelligent football consists of knowing when to keep possession, when to speed up, when to fall back - when to committ the "clever" foul in the midfield - when to do the 1-2 whackings you're allowed to do..

Apart from a general trend of being notorious bottlers, the Italians are for me the prime example of being an intelligent football nation. It runs in their blood - getting the 1-0 away in the tricky away game; crippling maradona and getting three draws to get out the WC group..

England are for the total opposite... Being brave, bold and lionhearts doesn't make you win anything when you're up against quality opposition. Could be the reason why rugby was invented, but football is a different matter..

Prime nations in Europe now being Spain and Germany - both intelligent footballing nations with skills and now also the ruthlessness to back it up..

Prime example of the modern footballer in the current squad is Agger - classy but ruthless when needed..  I guess we can add a few examples of the oppsite in the current squad..
It’s not even about individuality, it’s about the team. Our game was based on his controlling of the tempo. Squeeze the life out of the opposition and then strike. That is our game. Like a pack of pythons.

Offline Czar

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #19 on: March 22, 2012, 10:43:08 AM »
Thank you Roy, gripping read!

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #20 on: March 22, 2012, 10:44:24 AM »
Well written, that.

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #21 on: March 22, 2012, 10:52:27 AM »
If your most intelligent players are not on the pitch what do you expect
Lucas is injured and maxi isn't in favour
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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #22 on: March 22, 2012, 10:55:30 AM »
If your most intelligent players are not on the pitch what do you expect
Lucas is injured and maxi isn't in favour

i would expect us to have bought/played more intelligent players!



very good article Roy

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2012, 10:58:17 AM »
i read it a few weeks ago, agreed with it all then and agree with it all now

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #24 on: March 22, 2012, 11:03:50 AM »
Good read, interesting bit about the psychologist's approach to working with the footballers.
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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #25 on: March 22, 2012, 11:04:06 AM »
So would I.
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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #26 on: March 22, 2012, 11:12:13 AM »
Superb piece of writing, RAWK at it's best.

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #27 on: March 22, 2012, 11:17:18 AM »
Great opening post Roy, thoroughly enjoyed reading that. Have to agree with our stupid football point, at 2-1 up yesterday we try doing blind flicks too people in the final third, henderson did it a few times and we end up losing the ball where we should have taken the sting out of the game. This is where someone like lucas is missed who will pass the ball and slow the tempo down to a walking pace and just see the game out. The mentality of the players yesterday at 2-1 up should have been just keep the ball, hell it should been that at 2-0 up and just kill it off and play the simple pass as we no longer needed to score to win the game. But no they wanted to over elaborate things and then players lost there heads and the game went too shit.

I honestly believe there is a deep malaise that has formed from our inability to finish chances off. Now if we don't score early on you can see it in the players the anxiety builds up and they feel it like its going to be another one of those days. A sports psychologists for me is what is needed to get this group out of its rut. Higuain at real madrid while a fantastic player, always had mental issues when playing in the champions league even playing in the league against half decent opposition where he would miss sitter after sitter. He sought professional help and has since improved ten fold in his finishing since seeing that pshycologist to help him with his mental calmness.  We should be doing the same with the current crop of players, I feel.

Offline Davvo7

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #28 on: March 22, 2012, 11:22:44 AM »
What a great antidote to the toxic shite in the game thread. Interesting how so few of the posters in there have an opinion in here. Then again, this is a carefully considered and thoughtful thread whilst still asking questions. Top stuff Roy.
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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #29 on: March 22, 2012, 11:23:03 AM »
 :wellin

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #30 on: March 22, 2012, 11:25:37 AM »
(From a few weeks ago - I wrote it after Arsenal.)

Brilliant as usual.

From here on in its all FSG's doing. Good or bad they will stand or fall by the decisions they have made in the summer of 2012. Lets hope they have gotten it right.

Offline Melbred

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #31 on: March 22, 2012, 11:31:14 AM »
Top post.

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #32 on: March 22, 2012, 11:33:13 AM »
Enjoyed that, Roy. Good piece. Must get my hands on that Woodward book, would be a very interesting read I think.

It brings to mind a passage of play last night that really drove me mad. It was late on in the game, can't remember what the score was at the time, but Carroll got the ball near the halfway line and played a simple pass to Gerrard on the left wing, he was blocked from going down the wing by their fullback so he turned and looked inside to make a pass but there was no one there or a pass wasn't on. Carroll was at this point about 6inches further forward than when he had passed the ball with Enrique about 3 yards behind him. What annoyed me about this wasn't that Carroll wasn't busting a gut to get into the box (which would have been useless and redundant) or that he hadn't moved much (he seemed to be doing what all kids are taught to do when learning the game: when you pass the ball offer the receiver a option out), but that he wasn't aware of anything that was going on around him. He wasn't aware that Enrique was offering the out, he wasn't aware that moving 6 yards forward infield would have given Gerrard an out and released him. All that seemed to be on his mind was the ball at Gerrard's feet. If you don't have the ball then there's not much point in keeping that close an eye on it. What is really needed is to look for where the ball will be - the space. The ball will then find you. Very few of our players do this. Some, as in your example with Adam, seem to ball watch when they have the ball.

This also brings to mind two quotes about two players. The first was about Kuyt by Johnny Giles who said that he liked Kuyt but where others said that one of his strengths was that he never stopped running, he saw it as one of his biggest weaknesses. That Kuyt ran into space all the time, but then ran straight back out of it. The other one is Xavi's response to a Sid Lowe question when asked how he played football, (I think), and Xavi said: " Think quickly, look for spaces. That’s what I do: look for spaces. All day. I’m always looking. All day, all day.  Here? No. There? No. People who haven’t played don’t always realise how hard that is. Space, space, space." Technique aside I know which player I'd want. It doesn't have much to do with intelligence, just being taught to think. We're meant to be a pass and move team. We really should be a pass and move intelligently team. Finding space will make you look like the smartest fucker on the pitch.


Offline rafathegaffa

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #33 on: March 22, 2012, 11:42:34 AM »
Brilliant read Roy!
A thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking piece. Will have to sit and absorb this for a while.

Offline djschembri

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #34 on: March 22, 2012, 11:49:28 AM »
At the end of the game yesterday the first thing that came into my mind was this article.

You mention that a solution to not playing stupid football is to not buy stupid players. With the biggest respect to Kenny, but players like Adam, Carroll, Enrique and Downing are what you would call stupid footballers. They excel at one thing, struggle with the rest.

Last year we had the intelligence and movement of Maxi, Kuyt & Meireles all around Suarez. This year we've surrounded him with Adam, Carroll & Downing. No wonder we've struggled to bring the best out of him.

The QPR game can be seen as a one off, or a blip, but any "intelligent" team would be able to defend a 2-0 lead for 15 minutes against the league's bottom side. It ultimately boils down to the mentality of the players, and how they react to events in the game which go against them. QPR got a lucky goal from a corner (it wasn't a corner), but our reaction was to retreat into our shell and let them have possession, and they were able to build momentum. Two poor defensive mistakes and we've lost a game we should have won easily.

Intelligent teams will recognize that with 15 minutes to go, the approach to the game should change. A team should control the game, focus on having the majority of the possession, look to calm the tempo of the game and quieten down the crowd. We did nothing of the sort. What is the easiest way to stop the opposition from scoring? By keeping the ball. We did the opposite, because we stopped the very little pressing we were doing and let them have possession. Suarez and Kuyt were doing a good job of putting pressure on their defence, but Kuyt tired and Carroll barely jogs never mind presses.

Is it down to the players on the pitch? Poor tactics? No instructions from the sidelines? What about set pieces... Why did we have all players in the box yet not one player was on either post for their first goal? That's just a lack of common sense, never mind intelligence.

From what I've seen so far of Dalglish, he likes his teams to attack constantly, and we play a very direct game. There is no intelligence in our play, no changes to tactics depending on the situation in the game. Rafa used to liken a game of football to game of chess. Each move the opposition made meant that you had to adapt, each event meant a different approach.

At the end of the day, it's the results that matter ultimately. As long as we win, very few people will actually care how a victory was achieved. I have to admit I'm not yet convinced this new brand of stupid football will give us the results we want in the long term. I guess we'll have to wait and see

Offline bleedsred1978

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #35 on: March 22, 2012, 11:49:43 AM »
Get the fuck down off my obstacle private Pile Adam ;)

« Last Edit: March 22, 2012, 01:56:27 PM by bleedsred1978 »
From here on in its all FSG's doing. Good or bad they will stand or fall by the decisions they have made in the summer of 2012. Lets hope they have gotten it right.

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #36 on: March 22, 2012, 12:12:09 PM »
:wellin  Absolutely brilliant and insightful stuff Big Man. I'll see if my thoughts are along the lines that you're getting at. It's seems to be to me no coincidence that Bellamy got universally slated for stating something along the lines of winning medals was all he worried about when younger but has now realised that his career is no longer defined by if he wins medals, but instead whether he's played to his maximum performance in every game he plays. That may sound like the mentality of a loser at first glance, but it's obvious that it incorporates the philosophy that in the heat of battle, it's more about being able to produce the goods time after time. Getting to a cup final and saying things like "I can't contemplate defeat" is the real insidious problem because it heaps the pressure on yourself and your team. That level of pressure is far too difficult to cope with, especially if you concede goals, and ensures that the mentally weak amongst the group will cause them to make rash emotional decisions like "I've got to play the killer pass RIGHT NOW" "I've got to score AT THIS VERY MOMENT IN TIME" etc which only heaps on yet more pressure on themselves. That makes players make the wrong decision, Gerrard, Suarez and Carroll then berate them for making the wrong decision and inevitably it causes disharmony amongst the team, which heaps even more pressure on the individual and the team.

The fractious nature of playing the wrong ball ie the Charlie Adam scenario you mentioned, or even playing the right ball at the wrong time ie holding onto the ball 5 seconds too long for a player that's in the right space to receive it, cannot be underestimated. Calmness and intelligence is what's needed in the face of adversity, because pressure and emotions are the sure things to trigger recklessness. And as you rightly say, it's how you people cope in those situations, whether it's in a game, in business or even family life that will ultimately be the difference between making the right decision in the heat of the moment. people talk about playing with their heart on their sleeves, but I'd much sooner they played with their heart in their chest maintaining a regular beat and their brain out on display. In summary, Steve Peters is a genius; Anthony Robbins is a rent-a-quote fuckwit.

Driving ego out of the game to replace it with robot-like, cool-hearted calculation may be wholly appropriate to a war scenario, where nothing - absolutely nothing, matters more than winning. Not even survival. The paths of glory in war do indeed lead but to the grave.

Players of sport and football are not those ego-less machines. Supremacy is not attained via conformity and formation. To win in football, consistently and repeatedly, requires not only technical skill, application and coolness under pressure, it also but more importantly requires drive, passion and most of all, brilliance.

Brilliance in war too often leads to vainglorious and reckless performance, post-humous reward or worse, death of your team mates. Even spectacularly overwhelming force in tight battle lines are not overriding factors. Wars won are wars of attrition.

The ability to go the last inch on the football pitch, the flash of genius (the overhead kick from a galoot of a central defender) comes from somewhere else. Luck? Yes - Napoleon always asked his prospective commanders if they were lucky - but rather, instinct. You either have genius or you do not. It can neither be taught nor mentored. The path to the genius within a player (Bellamy perhaps) can be cleared but genius must be there in the first place and genius is always fueled by ego. Not the denying of it.

This isn't Cycling. Process does not dominate Brilliance.

Torres is another with a ‘mental issue’ apparently. Look at the dispassionate gob on him these days. He has clearly had his ego tutored out of him (for all we know, at Liverpool). He did well against weak opposition the other night but where has his undeniable genius gone?

Woodward’s team fell apart after that World Cup. Not, it would seem for want of psychological preparation. In fact he intensified the approach to the point of open revolt amongst the players (more or less - it was only public afterwards).

He would have done better to look for the next crop of talented players. The kind of players that had got him where he got in the first place. He may have done better to do that and let them have their heads rather than try to weave silk out of sow’s ears. Seems, first time around he 'just' got lucky.

.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2012, 03:03:48 PM by Peter McGurk »

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #37 on: March 22, 2012, 01:37:40 PM »
...

Spot on - exactly what I meant mate. :)

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #38 on: March 22, 2012, 01:51:37 PM »
The big problem for me is that it is not just the new players or the younger players who are playing without their brains.Benitez summed it up perfectly when he took off Gerrard and replaced him with Lucas in the Derby. Games are won by players who play with their brain and not their heart.

Last night we were crying out for a Didi stumble, an Alonso lesson in keep ball or Lucas showing for the ball and finding a red shirt. A little bit of know how and QPR are chasing shadows and conceding free kicks.

The lack of composure demonstrated by the senior players is resulting in a remarkable aptitude for snatching defeats and draws from the jaws of victory. They aren't going to learn at their age and aren't going to instill the right mentality into the youngsters the way United's senior players do. So its about we realise that they are part of the problem and not the solution.

There is no disgrace some players are leaders and do.the right thing instinctively and some do not.

One thing does need to be said: in the post-Benitez era, there was media-led clamour (but also some politicking going on at the club) to make the club more English; the idea being that the club had lost the very essence of what it means to be ‘Liverpool’. Guillem Ballague 18/11/10

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Re: Stupid Football
« Reply #39 on: March 22, 2012, 01:56:40 PM »
Top post.
Spot on - exactly what I meant mate. :)
...and a brilliant OP. Thanks for this Roy.