Players mental strength is something I really admire

by Bill Shankly’s Grandson Christopher William Shankly Carline

Say what you want about Glen Johnson. but he did well for the goal yesterday. He put his head in where it hurt and it is the reason we have 3 points today and everything feels just that little bit better. “And why would he not!” I hear you cry. “He is on about £100,000 per week!” Of course he is, and a point well made. I expect every player wearing a Liverpool shirt to have that level of commitment, but I sometimes think some fans need to step back and remember that players are still human. Johnson has come in for a lot of stick in the last 12 months, some justified, some not.

Criticism of players is something I have quite strong views on. Let’s get it right, when you are a professional footballer with all the trappings of the modern game, of course you are accountable and of course you should expect criticism. My issue however is how it is delivered. I’ve always been of the opinion that screaming abuse at our own players when they are playing live in front of us is completely counter-productive and quite moronic to be honest. How is it going to help the player and therefore in turn how is it going to help the team? Anyone who has played football at any sort of competitive level knows how it works. If as a player; your confidence is low, you don’t want the ball because you are scared to give it away or mess up. If the crowd is therefore on your back prolifically; what do fans expect when the individual therefore fails to perform. As you are about to receive the ball; all you are thinking is that everyone in this crowd is expecting me to mess up. And you will.

When I have been at the game over the years and people around me have been screaming at an individual (I had one idiot throughout the Real Madrid game abusing Balotelli non stop. Literally that is all he opened his mouth to do. No encouraging or singing for the team, just abusing Mario); I have turned round and said something to them. I find it ridiculous. Players know when they are playing poor. And if they don’t, do people think their coaches, manager and team mates don’t pull them on it? I’m not for one minute saying they should be immune from fans’ criticism, not at all, I regularly have a rant on social media (never direct to players however, don’t even get me started on that) or in forums or with my mates about players; but my point is that. There is a time and a place for it, where it can take place constructively; and not in the middle of a live game of football whilst they are representing my team.

It all brings me on however to my main point. I admire the mental strength shown at times by these players who have become the vehicle for fans frustrations, and often at times; a scapegoat. I could go back over my match going years ( I won’t though) and name the players who have been the target of frustrations of Liverpool fans and at times, carried the can for the frustrations of the fans. Danny Murphy springs to mind as one. The man who scored the winner how many times against Manchester Utd? Lucas Leiva is another and a prime example of my point.

Lucas was abused horrendously in his first season or so at the club, as he struggled to come to terms with a new culture, a new country, a new team and a new league. Yet the Brazillian managed to turn this full circle and went through a period where he was one of our best performers and an integral part of the team, with fans revelling in his performances. It is that which I really admire. It surely takes a great deal of mental strength to turn your performances round from being screamed at by fans, abused and actually ironically cheered when you are subbed; to having fans realise that you are an integral part of the team. To be able to block out the abuse and consensus on the pitch to just stay concentrated on your game; safe in the knowledge your ability will ultimately shine through; is something that I personally feel must be a great challenge and that those who achieve it and come out the other side must be applauded for it; as many have fallen on this path believe me.

Glen Johnson epitomised my point yesterday. Despite the non stop abuse he has had; many of which is a direct frustration at the teams overall plight at the moment, he turned in a man of the match performance yesterday (and that wasn’t just my opinion, it was backed by Aldo too on City) and put his body on the line to secure us the 3 points. He HAS been poor at times over the last 12-18 months but I also remember that for a period of 2 years he was fantastic for us; and as far as I am concerned, is still the best right back at the club. Id rather channel my attention towards encouraging him to try and get back to his former form; than vilifying him all the way towards the exit door. That’s what he did yesterday; channelled his mental strength into turning in a performance.

Let’s not forget. We are Liverpool. We pride ourselves in being the best fans in the world and being a unique set of people who aren’t like other football fans. Let’s remember that when we are screaming abuse at our own players when they are wearing a Liverbird upon their chest right in front of us trying to win us a football match.

Reds problem is that they simply beat themselves rather than teams having to do it for them!

by Christopher William Shankly Carline

As the dust settles on yet another frustrating match day for Liverpool; a stark reality hit home as the clock ticked on towards yet another defeat.

Whilst Chelsea are head and shoulders the stand out team this year in the Premier League; and will bar a catastrophic collapse, win the league at a canter; I couldn’t help but realise that they never really had to beat us to claim the 3 points. We did that ourselves. And it isn’t the first time!

Let’s start with this seemingly inexplicable need to play ourselves into trouble in our own half, most notably in front of our own penalty area. At times I wonder whether there is some strange bet going on between the goalkeeper and his back four, as to who should be the first one to launch the ball long loses. I admire a team and a manager who have principles and a style of play; and I admire it even more when it involves keeping the ball on the floor. What I don’t admire; is when a team shows a complete lack of flexibility in their play to adapt this style when the opposition is clearly counteracting it. News flash. Teams know that we like to play from the back, with Gerrard dropping in and the full backs creating options wide; and they set up to stop us doing it. It beggars belief to me therefore that these players seems to be incapable of looking at the situation and mixing it up a bit to counterbalance this. It’s like a gang of kids who’ve been told what to do by their teacher and none of them want to break rank for fear of reprisal. Instead, they’d rather continuously play themselves and their team mates into trouble, without ever getting out their half. This mindless course of action presented Chelsea with a plethora of chances today that Liverpool were lucky to get away with; the only surprise being that the away teams two goals didn’t come from this schoolboy method of play.

Indeed the manager should not escape criticism for this. Why he isn’t screaming for his players to adapt and look to plan B and C is quite astounding at times, and was today compounded when; pre half time Liverpool contrived to present Chelsea with a host of chances; and then came out post half time and picked up exactly where they left off. It really beggars belief for me right now.

You can also throw into the mix; the team selection. Again, I ask, what did Jordan Henderson bring to the party today? How is Adam Lallana on the bench and equally; when we are losing, how does he not get on the pitch but Joe Allen does? And whilst on that topic; Coutinho and Can off, whilst Henderson stays on, with Allen being one of the replacements! I made the point last week that Gerrard, Allen and Henderson on the pitch at the same time is a no no. A BIG no no. It means no creativity whatsoever. Furthermore; the last substitution was wasted with one striker off for another on. Last season, the Henderson, Gerrard combination was ok, as what it lacked in creativity was cancelled out by the all encompassing creativity of one man up front. He isn’t here now so it needs to change.

I’m a Brendan Rodgers fan; but he really needs to heed the warning signs and look at the history and fates of some of his predecessors in the Anfield corridors of power. Namely Rafa Benitez. Rafa’s stubbornness cost him his job. I really hope Rodgers doesn’t go the same way. Last season, the 433 worked because of the players we had. It worked because of the majestic Uruguayan up front who was infectious. It doesn’t work for us at the moment and it needs to change. You’ve got to work with what you have and Rodgers needs to show he isn’t a one trick pony and that he does have a plan b, a plan c, and a plan d, e and f. It’s clear to fans that two up top works better when Mario is playing and it’s clear to fans that Borini’s admirable persistence and work rate has played his way into the fans thoughts at least. He should be starting up top with Mario and we should be deploying the diamond behind it, with Adam Lallana a focal point of that. Additionally, maybe he also needs to tell his full backs that in a time when it seems a distinct impossibility for Liverpool to keep a clean sheet, maybe they should spend a bit of time staying fairly close to their central defensive cohorts and learning to defend in a line going back to basics, rather than being told to hare forward at every rush of blood to the head (I seem to remember Philipe Coutinho being in the right back position for Chelsea’s controversial winner).

If that wasn’t all bad enough; I cant sign off without commenting on another woefully inept referee performance. It seems to me that the FA have a production line for turning out incredibly poor officials. Taylor was poor today; the ball looked out of play from where I was for Chelsea’s winner (Im prepared to admit I was wrong once if I am once Ive seen it on the TV, but I was sat in the Main Stand and it looked out from where I was) and we were denied a blatant, stonewall penalty in the closing exchanges for handball. Chelsea might have got the 3 points today; but they will play harder games throughout the season; having to only take advantage of the implosive nature of their hosts.

Come on Brendan, it needs sorting out!

Newcastle game shows the time is needed for the tough decisions to be made

by Christopher William Shankly Carline

Coming away from St James’ Park on Saturday with a defeat was extremely frustrating and quite frankly, unacceptable. Let’s get that on the table now. As inconsistent as our start to the season has been; losing to a poor Newcastle team who created next to nothing, at home or not, was poor to say it mildly.

The managers statement that we didn’t deserve to win, yet didn’t deserve to lose either is actually quite accurate as a statement about the game; but that doesn’t make it ok. Saturday was the first time I’ve really felt that Brendan got it very wrong with his team selection. And no, that doesn’t mean we should start a Twitter campaign calling for him to be ousted from his job. The less said about the people behind that the better!

He does however need to start looking at a plan B or plan C, and a more flexible approach to both shape and formation and team selection. And with that will come some harsh decisions.

We’ve clearly seen that Mario functions better with a more mobile, hard working strike partner, as opposed to him being the lone striker. If Brendan is to persist with the Italian which it seems he is, then he needs to look at and maybe look to implement the 442 (with the diamond midfield) we have deployed in the past.  The last 30 minutes against Hull at Anfield were played out this way; and it was one of the most threatening we have looked all season, all be it we lacked the finish when needed. This suggestion naturally leads to the question as to who the candidates are to partner him if you take Sturridge out the equation due to injury. Right now for me, Id be giving Borini the job with the ask for him to go prove himself. Fabio hasn’t set the world alight at Liverpool, and none of us would have batted an eyelid if he had gone to Sunderland in the Summer. Yet we have to ask has he ever really been given a chance. He played a few games for us out wide in his first season (not his natural position), got injured, came back, got injured again and that was about it. He was then sent on loan last season and scored the goals that kept Sunderland in the league.

Im not by any chance suggesting here he is the answer long term. What I am suggesting is that having watched him work with Mario against Swansea, then maybe he should be given a prolonged run to stake a claim for the job long term. He is mobile and works hard and to be honest, in may ways, should be commended for his decision to not leave permanently. As a young lad, he seems to have stated he isn’t ready to give up on the dream of playing regularly for a huge club; and in the face of overwhelming support for his sale from fans and staff alike, he dug his heels in and was prepared to fight. It is spirit like that that we need right now. Quite why he wasn’t therefore given the chance to pick up where he left off against Swansea does perplex me.

The other massive error for me is the selection in midfield. I’ve touched on this before on my blogs and Ill touch on it much more now as I feel it is more and more relevant. We cannot play both Gerrard and Henderson in the same team in  my opinion and we certainly cant do that with Allen as the other centre mid. It is a midfield three that lacks goals and creativity, something we are already trying to make up the loss ratio on with the loss of Suarez.

There can at times be no room for sentiment and harsh decisions need to be made. Either Gerrard doesn’t start and Henderson takes up the holding role which is his natural position anyway, or Gerrard retains his place and Henderson drops to the bench with the aim of possibly being the captains long term successor. When Henderson plays with Steven and is asked to play further forward, he doesn’t offer enough to warrant a place in the team especially when you have Lallana sitting rather bizarrely on the bench. He doesn’t score goals and he doesn’t really create them either and at Newcastle, his place in the team was a waste of a position; and it isn’t the first time this year.

I like Henderson, I’m a fan. He is another who has displayed a steely resolve at a young age to get into the team after having been played out of position in the wake of a transfer with a hefty price tag; and I think he does have decent attributes. He has a wonderful engine, can tackle, gets round the pitch, puts himself about; gets it, gives it and rarely gives it away. Attributes all suited to the holding role.

The fact is that the manager needs to make a decision and drop one down to the bench which will bring Lallana into play. Lallana has been our best player this year, and it was clear that after half an hour of the Newcastle game; whilst we were bossing possession; we weren’t even getting close to opening Newcastle up. It was slightly disappointing therefore to not see the necessary changes made quick enough to address the issue and we paid the ultimate price.

If Rodgers wanted to play the conventional 433 he likes, it should have been Sterling Borini and Mario up top; with the midfield 3 of Gerrard, Lallana and Coutinho.

If the diamond is to be deployed, it should be Gerrard, Lallana, Coutinho, Sterling with Mario and Fabio up top. For me; it is a gamble worth taking; as equally as bad as our defending is; our lack of creativity and fluidity is hurting us. It’s time to be bold and brave!