Episode 3 – Hopes and expectations cont.
So with our European adventure over as it was just getting going courtesy of Juventus, we were able to focus our ambitions towards domestic titles.
This year I continue to bed in youngsters with talent and first teamers who are lacking in match readiness and make it into the Final for the third year running (including the year Liverpool made it under Klopp in real life). The first few rounds were hard fought as we lacked the quality to really push through ‘weaker’ opponents, but it gave a considerable amount of playing time for my youngsters to develop. Florentino Luis in particular is starting to stand out as a real prospect and will be pushing for a first team berth in a season or twos time if he continues to develop in training and U23s games at the same rate. Belotti is also given game time as he’s not managed to overtake Origi and scores goals throughout. However, he frustrated me immensely during the EFL Cup and any other game he played in. He would waste numerous chances created by the hard-working midfield who were winning the ball back and pinging balls to him or for him to run on through simply because he was lazily standing in an offside position. The timings of his runs and his positioning was so awful that it became crystal clear that he was not going to be the player that I wanted him to be. The reason: his player preferred move (PPM_ of ‘likes to beat the offside trap’. I didn’t coach him this, but it’s my fault that my own scouting (mine, not my scouts) let me down here. This PPM would have made me question whether he was the right player for my side given the high press we try to implement and his preferred position of Advanced Forward. Many teams try to play a higher line against us and so offer us space, in an attempt for them to compress passing lanes and squeeze the midfield, providing opportunity for the more direct pass (even though we do have the instruction to pass it shorter) over the top for one of my attacking players, either the Complete Forward (A) or the Inside Forward (S) to latch onto and create a goal scoring chance. This then meant that Belotti was resigned to the bench for most of the 17-18 season and was not a wise investment on my behalf. Lessons learned here.
After two sweet victories, especially the ones over our insignificant “small”, to quote Rafa, local rivals in the Third Round, I was hopeful of a good cup run. However, congested fixture lists and a small squad with areas requiring further investment/training time, I took the opinion that sacrificing the FA Cup, probably much to the chagrin of our fans and board, was the wise thing to do and elected to play a slightly weaker XI than I otherwise might. We actually ran Arsenal fairly close but we were profligate upfront taking pot shot after pot shot and we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
After last year’s somewhat surprising second place finish, I was keen to solidify a top four finish and retain Champions League football for next season. What actually happened went beyond my expectations
This should never have happened. Man City were running away with the league and had a comfortable gap over the rest of the chasing pack and I had an uneasy run in with Chelsea, Tottenham and Man United all to play in the last eight games of the season. I was fighting just to remain in the top four in my eyes and hopefully squeak guaranteed qualification into the Champions League proper. Man City though, blow it. Losing to Arsenal (fair enough), Everton (who finished the season in 17th) and QPR (who at the time were scrapping, unsuccessfully, to remain in the Premier League – to no doubt splurge a bunch of money on over-rated, fit players again. What’s that? Harry’s not their manager? Oh, OK, they may not have done then).
Nine points dropped allows a surging Liverpool, who only drop two points at home to West Ham in eight games up until the last game of the season. 22/23 points is very pleasing end of season form and the press are loving the tight last day, the two teams only separated by goal difference. They ask me during the press conference about how does it feel to know that the title is in our grasp – simply match or better Man City and the Premier League is yours? Daftly asking what tactics I’m about to play, as if I’m about to tell Stoke’s Sam Allardyce (when you actually think about it, that makes sense… about 7 years ago!) that yes, we will be playing 4-1-2-2-1 and that of course we’re going to play attacking football. He has his scouts for that, let them do the dirty work. In truth, I was nervous. I remember when Liverpool last had the title in their sights… the chants from the opposing fans still ring in Liverpool’s supporters. You all know the one. An early goal is a must. Calm the nerves. I tell the boys assertively, the League is yours for the taking, go and do it for the fans that have supported you all through the season. Georginio Wijnaldum listens. He smacks home a shot from outside the box within three minutes. I jump for joy but immediately wonder what to do. We can’t shut up shop and defend for 86 minutes, that’s just silly. Especially against Long-Ball Sam. We don’t. We score again. Leon. Lovely Leon. Gorgeous Goretzka. Didn’t I say in my last post that £48.5m was a bargain? Remember too, Man City spent £86m on Griezmann and look where it’s got them! Man City win their last game too, but it doesn’t matter. The Premier League is ours!
No more slipping and losing the ball to Willian for him to run through… the nightmares of Stevie G can be laid to rest and the Kop can claim back bragging rights over their Champions League-less Man United counterparts.
Spurs too have Spurs’d it up to… or at least so it seems. Under van Gaal, yes, I know, I had to look twice too, they win the Champions League. Unbelievable, Jeff! Leicester, two years on from their League title are relegated.
I’m awarded Premier League Manager of the Season and Coutinho runs off with the Fans Player of the Year Award and by some margin. He contributes 15 goals, 12 assists and 9 PoMs with a season’s average rating of 7.47. Origi scores 21 in 36 starts, seven off the bench, and 8 assists, whilst Berardi, last season’s January signing, scores 16, assists 10 in 32(7). Quite some front three with 52 goals and 30 assists between them in all competitions.
Needless to say, the board are delighted with the first Premier League title being in the bag and so soon into my time at the club. I’m given a good wodge of cash to spend and asked if I would like to take a more prominent role in deciding upon affiliate clubs to help grow the commercial side of the Club (which I gratefully accept) and state I’d like a tie up with New England (being a big Patriots fan that I am). The board also say would I like more wages for coaching staff… I don’t, but I say yes anyway. Prize money is reinvested back into the youth team coaching, improving the youth recruitment, the training facilities for the first team and the youth facilities. Always pays to consider the future, and improving the first team facilities should help going forwards with attracting new players.
It’s also important to remain focussed. Liverpool won the League four times in the 1980s and the Champions League twice, doing the double in my year of birth, so there is quite some way to go yet. We’ll seek to win the title again next year, though I know the transfer clout of the big teams below me will rear their head again, hunting out Europe’s best talents and deals are already being talked about in the media. Gabrigol and Giménez are wanted by Arsenal; Meré touted to go to United, Ceballos hunted by Chelsea… and Man City bid crazy money, £78m including add-ons, for Emre Can.
I’m torn. He’s good, steady, young. He could be the basis of the middle three in the DLP(D) role for years to come. That’s not a natural role for him, but he’s so well-rounded it doesn’t really matter too much. But that’s just silly money. Money I can’t really say no to. So I accept, after working them up to this amount and begin looking for his replacements. The fans will no doubt hate me, they weren’t too keen when I sold Lucas Leiva for £15m in January 2017, but I suspect the board will be secretly pleased to rake in that much money for a player signed for £9.75m.
Thank you so much for reading, to find out who and other transfer movements, read Episode 4.
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