ON the eve of a football match that will be a good marker for how far we have come under Brendan Rodgers (and FSG for that matter), a woman born in Lincolnshire in 1840 and a letter she wrote to the Editor of the (now defunct) National Observer in 1891 become quite poignant.
“Sir, It has been wittily remarked that there are three kinds of falsehood: the first is a ‘fib,’ the second is a downright lie, and the third and most aggravated is statistics…”
We’ve all heard that phrase…
The woman’s name was Eliza Gutch, and she was talking about pensions, not football.
In this ‘bloggy’ age of Twitter, Instagram et al, there is no place to hide. Every #hashtag can be investigated, a footballer’s every movement measured, then tabulated, analyzed, printed and articulated. In the pre-match briefings they are questioned. On the field they are answered.
Emotions, thoughts and numbers engage in constant interplay.
The truth lies somewhere in between, and in this piece I run my subjective eye over a few lies and statistics.
The Fib: Put plainly, it is a fib (albeit an innocent one verging on a downright lie) that we are in any position to put up a sustainable challenge for fourth this season. And to be honest, it is one generated from the minds of us long suffering Liverpool fans who want to see some forward momentum in the league. We are to blame for building up our own expectations.
David James is one such fan, and he recently declared that he thinks we can finish fourth after a visit to Melwood. He cited the acquisition of Coutinho, of Aspas, and the flourishing of Daniel Sturridge. The Brazilian and the Englishman are excellent, and the Spaniard looks like a cheeky latter day Luis Garcia, but the season has 36 more rounds to go, and many injuries in stock, and many a suspension, and the defense does not look particularly deep.
Here’s another fib. Just because we have kept two clean sheets does not mean we will automatically put up a better defensive statistic this season. Mignolet, penalty-save notwithstanding, was not unflappable against either Stoke or Villa. Quite to the contrary, when it came to aerial balls he was rather ‘flappy’, if such a word exists.
But a grain of counterbalancing truth here; I remember watching Reina when he first arrived and for almost a third of the season he struggled with aerial balls – a baptism made worse by acclimatizing to Rafa’s zonal marking system. At least Mignolet’s nervousness seems purely to do with settling into a new defensive setup.
And the lad is bloody lucky. That’s a truth. In his time at Liverpool, Pepe, bless him, always seemed to not get the rub of the green.
Another truth. Kolo Toure has been excellent, and not necessarily because he is technically or physically more gifted than Agger, and the alternative choice of Skrtel. Kolo Toure has been brilliant because he was never the Rolls Royce that Agger is expected to be, and he was never the street-fighter-par-excellence the Slovakian is portrayed as.
Toure has no image to live up to.
Aged 32, he runs without grace, but he runs like a battering ram and with purpose. He has nothing to prove, and he knows this is his swansong, so he has no scouts to impress, no Barcelona to transfer to. This is effectively his final payday, and he’ll be damned if he has to warm the pines!
The Statistics: Statistics are a bewildering business. David Moyes has only won 4 of his 25 matches against Liverpool. The last one was against Roy Hodgson’s 2010 team featuring Kyrgiakos, Joe Cole and Paul Konchesky. 2-0 down, on came David N’Gog, Milan Jovanovic and Ryan Babel.
As it stands, at least two truths can be extracted from the above stats. 1: Liverpool Football Club’s current squad is far more equipped than three years ago and 2, David Moyes is not bringing the likes of Yakubu, Heitinga (who actually turned out to be quite a handy player for them in the end) and a young Seamus Coleman.
He is bringing Manchester United. According to transfermarkt.com, United are valued at €389.25 million, Liverpool: €254 million.
But wait, before we start shouting from the rooftops about investing in our first team squad, figure this into the calculation. Accounting giants Deloitte reckon United are currently £366 million in debt and owe interests and other financial costs of approximately £50 million. Liverpool? £87 million and £4 million respectively.
I quote these numbers because I have seen a lot of people quite concerned about the lack of investment in the first team, and the argument follows thus: if we do not invest, we cannot be in the Champions League, and that would mean us missing out on valuable revenue. We need to jump on the virtuous cycle!
But is the cycle really that virtuous? United’s financial situation is precarious. In debt to the Glazers, they would be under the pump in a word exercising fiscal responsibility. At least our Americans are not leveraging the club’s resources.
And unfortunately, this is a not a world exercising fiscal responsibility.
So, which truth do you want?
And that’s the sobering question I want to end with. Do you want the truth that we are, for all intents and purposes, on safer ground than United, financially? Or the truth that we won’t qualify for the Champions League next season, and maybe the one after?
What about the truth that although we have lost only once in the last 15 games we still haven’t looked ‘consistently’ solid. What about the fact that we have only scored two goals?
Or the truth that all other truths don’t matter, as long as those ninety minutes and that chuck of stoppage time (it is United after all!) means we have put one over on the old enemy.
I don’t know, but I love LFC. For Sunday at least, United can go to hell.