Said I would try to give an opinion on approach/style that we were attempting. Been away with work so time to think about it (travel time & hotels) - was going to post tonight and then find out Kenny sacked at the airport on way home. Will leave it for now I think.
Think thats fair enough big man.
I'm absolutely gutted myself and it does all seem a bit bloody pointless to be honest.
but I've written this guff over the last couple of days so I'll post it anyway maybe it'll take peoples mind off the travesty of today for 5 minutes. Even if its to get angry at how bad my analysis is. The Liverpool Style -
Spent a little while flicking through http://www.lfchistory.net/
to try and put some bones on the ideas that we’ve always been an adaptable side and have tried various style and methods through the years.
I looked mainly at the high points from the 60’s onwards, if Shanks was the founding father of the modern LFC, it seemed appropriate to go that far back and look generally at the different teams the different managers put out.
Now I can’t claim to have studied the tactics and positional play of all our games and players, I was 4 or 5 when I started watching the reds but I have my own views on what I thought we played like and how we played through the decades enough to lay out the bare bones I reckon. No doubt I’ve missed off some favourites, the blond bombshell Alun Evans, the scruffy Kev McDonald, John Wark etc. Many of you could no doubt put far more flesh on the bones or correct my assumptions of style and methods with greater knowledge and appreciation for the fine arts.
Before I start, what struck me most was not only how the teams evolved but how the players themselves adapted to different roles and formations through the years. Our history is littered with versatile players, a recent debate on the Auld Arse thread had me look into Tommy Smith’s history in a bit of detail- the lad actually began life as a forward and ended covering right across the back four, doing all the roles with equal spirit and determination. Anyway let’s crack on……….1964 thru 66 (Formation 4-2-4)
2 titles and a FA cup (our first) tell some of the story but for a defeat in the Cup Winners Cup final to a freak of a goal by Dortmund and a travesty of a result in the Semi Final of the European cup against Inter it could have been even greater.
The team Shanks put together was still largely built around the lads that had won promotion from Division 2 a few of years earlier:
Tommy Lawrence was the keeper ‘the flying pig’ – the first ever ‘sweeper-keeper’ according to Tommy and Shanks as round as he was fast – he allowed the defence to push up by cutting out the through balls by coming off his line.
The defence for the most was a traditional back four built around a big stopper in Ronnie ‘the Colossus’ Yeats, Come in and walk around him Shanks once declared. They were as tough as nails but that was pretty much par for the course in the 60’s although Gerry Bryne exploits in the cup final playing though the pain of a broken collar bone was exceptional. Chris Lawler was an usual player though – for those of a younger age he was very like Lawrenson in his style, an elegant player, perhaps at a push you could compare the way he glided across the turf to the movement going forward of Glen Johnson. I remember me Dad telling me once Lawler played that way for fear of laddering his tights. But Chris scored 61 goals from fullback, on average one every 9 games. It was one of the attributes of that 60’s side that the fullback followed the play and the midfield covered in behind.
In midfield we’d used two tough, hardworking players Milne and Stevenson more often than not who could play the ball wide quickly and effectively, with Callaghan wide right and Thompson wide left. Although Cally started out as a typical winger, injuries would take there toll and turn him into a more traditional wide right player. Whilst Thompson was an out and out winger, a brilliant dribbler and crosser of the ball, a 1960’s Ronaldo, playing in concrete boots, on a mud patch of a pitch and using a ball made of solid lead.
Upfront we had Hunt and St John – one a fiery little scot, the other an outstanding player and finisher, neither blessed with pace but both gifted with their movement and ball control.
They were a team that complimented each other perfectly, this was no one man or two man team, they worked hard for each other, they played the ball on the floor, using quick passing movements, always giving the man on the ball passing options. Out wide they had players who could take on their opponents and beat them to create space and they had energy and belief about them especially at Anfield that just relentlessly ground opposition teams down. They reflected their manager you couldn’t really get a better compliment than that.1973 thru-74 (4-4-2/4-3-3 ish)
A title and 2nd place in the league, a second FA Cup and our first European trophy the Uefa Cup.
Most of the personnel had changed by the time Shanks second great side delivered but oddly it was still a team in transition. Stevie Heighway’s blistering pace had replaced Thommo’s craft and skill on the left wing and Cally had become a more industrious wide midfielder having lost some of his pace and trickery due to injury giving the team a slightly lopsided feel.
We’d introduced a new stopper, he still played the same sweeper style and was excellent one on one but he was supremely agile and his concentration levels were fantastic. Often called upon late on in games to deny a breakaway goal or the opposition’s one clear cut chance and he was there time and again. Contrast that with Pepe’s performances this season and see what could have been the result had he not been.
At the back changes were in train with the traditional behemoth Larry Lloyd being phased out and replaced by a wiry, big beaked Scouser known as Phil Thompson, partnered by Emlyn Hughes who had dropped back from midfield. This combination was more revolution than revelation as Liverpool began to play the ball out from the back along the floor, with either centre half capable of bringing the ball into midfield, the solid Alec Lindsay, as the new left back, scorer of the greatest goal never to be allowed in a cup final, added to a the quality of technical players at the back. The improved technique allowed Liverpool to keep possession, especially when they wanted to kill off games. Shanks was noted for wanting to simply contain away in Europe and throw the kitchen sink at teams at Anfield.
By now Emlyn Hughes had arrived at the club wearing his heart on his sleeve. If Crazy Horse reminds me of anybody in the game today its Gerrard – the build and athleticism is the same, but whilst Hughes had a boundless enthusiasm and energy, Gerrard has far greater technique and quality both though are forces of nature.
We’d also added a touch of craft to midfield with the arrival of Peter Cormack, a ball player who could spot and play a pass.
Thrown into this improved technical mix and a team who could keep the ball for fun were two international strikers. John Toshack was an overly tall striker, who could dominate possession from the air, whilst Kevin Keegan was a whirlwind of a player, who darted about the field and created havoc. It was a great big man/little man combination with Keegan feeding off the second ball or running into the space Tosh created. But Bill could mix it up and Heighway would just as often play upfront alongside Keegan in games leaving a third midfield runner to come through midfield.
This side had a fair amount of tactical flexibility not just because of personnel changes but because of the individual players and their ability to shift and adapt positions.1975 – 1977 (4-4-2/4-5-1)
2 titles, 1 European Cup.
After the heartbreak of Shanks departure Bob seemed to take the view that if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.
His first successful side of ’76 played a very similar pattern to the side Shanks left behind.
Phil Neal had joined at right back added a degree of defensive stability and Joey Jones at left back, a Kop favourite for his run through a brick ball attitude.
Ray Kennedy came in from Arsenal. He was a striker with the gunners but was quickly switched to a left sided midfield player by Bob. Tall and strongly built, with an excellent range of passing and great eye for goal he was an outstanding addition to the side.
Jimmy Case was another addition to the midfield (or Justin as he was christened by the lads near me on the Kop after appearing in the program as Substitute: J. Case) filling in on the right as Cally began to wind down.
It was at this time we also saw the tireless work rate of Terry Mac coming from deep.
Bob also wisely added more clinical and mobile strikers into the equation with Fairclough and Johnson coming into the squad and providing options in attack.
Not only was the squad looking deeper and of better quality with the ability to retain the ball but it looked supremely fit. The style itself was flexible with a number of variations to the traditional 442, with a 451 sometimes used but the team could simply pass or run any opposition into the ground.1978- 84 (4-4-1-1)
5 titles, 3 European Cups, 4 league cups
By ’78 Keegan had moved on and Dalglish had arrived and we built on our success taking us from first time European champions to the undisputed best team in Europe.
We added further quality in Souness and Hansen and Alan Barney Rubble Kennedy but we also changed tactically. Both our ‘wide men’ now lacked pace neither Case nor Kennedy were traditional wide players but they allowed us to control games with a controlled passing game. Both fullbacks were allowed to join the play and create width. The forward play of Dalglish and one of Rush, Heighway, Johnson were supported by Terry Mac running from deep and the goal scoring of Kennedy and Case could also be relied on to break through teams either with accurate long range shooting or clever passing play.
We’d replaced some of the industry with quality on the ball especially in the midfield and at the back. Possession over work rate. We still had the industrious hardworking right sided player but were before we’d had a wide attacking player, we now had solid a ball player.
In many ways, the side was built around the talents of the mercurial No.7, creative, brilliant, with the touch, vision and skill to make him one of the best players in world football, well that and the prolific finishing of Rush, for younger viewers he was like RVP but without the injuries and arrogance.
Bobs third side (or Joe’s first) for the most part added fresh legs to what had gone before – Lawrenson for Thompson, Lee/Nicol for Case, Whelan for Kennedy but there was also a couple of exceptional talents to boot. Grobelaar replaced the ever reliable Clemence I’ve never quite understood why. Clem still had a couple of good years in his tank and Bruce for all his brilliance was prone to more than the occasional ricket. We’d also added the supreme Ian Rush. One chance one goal. His work rate closing down the opposition back four was exceptional, his partnership with Dalglish was even better.
We had reached a point were we just had to tinker with the side, keep it ticking over.1986-90 (4-4-1-1/4-3-3)
The league and cup double in ‘86, 2 more titles and another FA Cup.
Yet again the club delivered in a transitional period. Kenny was on the wane and Paul Walsh had arrived to try and fill his shoes. I liked Walsh but he was half the player, skilled on the ball and a good finisher he was a good player just not great. Beglin had claimed the left back slot and McMahon was in for Souness. The Craig ‘the headless chicken’ Johnston was running up and down the right hand side but to all intents and purposes we were still in 4411.
With Dalglish hanging up his boots and Rush departing for Juventus, the whole forward line had gone but rather than simply replacing like for like Dalglish created possibly our most creative and flowing side. The back line stayed the same, but the intelligent Houghton came in to share the right hand side with Johnston, Craig charging up and down the right, brave and industrious, the former perpetual motion, sharp and intelligent with a superior touch. Whelan and McMahon were now in the centre – both superb on the ball, both with long range slick passing and excellent shooting. That was a great foundation for any team but Kenny added to it with three fantastic signings.
John Barnes came in on the left, revisionism says we bought a star for a fortune. He was dirt cheap because nobody wanted him, 900k when we paid near 4m for Beardsley at virtually the same time. He came from Watford with a reputation for lazy, inconsistent, brilliance. It was not only said he was not a ‘Liverpool player’ but he had the audacity to be black. Back then black was a big deal – it shouldn’t have been but it was, just over 20 years ago, it was a disgrace. It was a stroke of genius by Dalglish. Barnes was superb, picking up player of the year and adding a majestic grace to the side, we once again had pace and power down the left. It stretched teams
and created space for Peter Beardsley – he came at a price a record British fee I think – but he was worth it - a cross between Keegan and Dalglish – a cracking work rate and superb touch and vision a genuine team player. It was a great combination it created space and bewildered defences.
And to this Dalglish added a Rush lookalike with no pace and no real reputation. A goal scorer from the lower leagues that had nothing to recommend him except an above average strike rate. Aldo made me eat my words, he was superb, he complemented the team to perfection and finished the chances they created.
The team functioned superbly, its passing purred in a strange lopsided 442/433 reminiscent of the earlier sides with Thommo and Heighway down the left. Barnes pushed forward Houghton or Johnston doing the work of two on the right, two clever , solid players in the centre and Beardsley foraging behind Aldo. It produced the game known as the Game of the Century, the demolition of Nottingham Forest. Going forward
So there was no real set style, there were different styles suited to different players and different era’s. You can see how the stability of ideas and the quality of the individuals involved allowed the different teams to be built off the back of each other.
It would be possible to select a formation or style from those we’ve used, to select positions and types of player and create a Liverpool style going forward but is that appropriate, should lessons be learned at a higher level, wider conclusions drawn that the team needs to be adaptable to the factors of time and personnel. This would allow individual managers the opportunity to utilise their own ideas and style whilst staying within some general principles.