Naivety is holding Liverpool FC back

Naivety (or naivetynaïveté, etc.), is the state of being naive—having or showing a lack of experience,understanding or sophistication, often in a context where one neglects pragmatism in favor of moral idealism.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to any Liverpool fan that the start of the season has been a mixed bag. There have been good and bad performances; and too many instances where the lack of depth in our squad has been exposed. But we knew that would be the case at the end of the summer window, it isn’t new news.

We knew that when the summer window slammed shut we were going to have to make do with what we had until January. And in fairness to both Brendan Rodgers and the squad; there have been some promising signs. Results haven’t reflected performances – and we have been on the end of a disproportionate number of dubious refereeing decisions.

One of our biggest issues at the moment is our tendency to create problems of our own making. Both on the pitch and off it, our decision making is being influenced by inexperience and naivety at times. This is leading to avoidable mistakes at every level of the club; and is creating a perception amongst supporters that the club has no real direction or plan for the future.

Perception is the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted

The issue the club has is that perception is the number one driver behind a football fans opinion. The idea that FSG have invested £300m in an asset and have not developed a clear roadmap does not fit with how they have managed the Red Sox over a ten year period. But the perception amongst Liverpool supporters is that after two years in situ, we are no further forward than when they took over.

That is in many ways a fair observation. But it also fails to recognise the sheer scale of the task in transforming a club that had fallen light years behind rivals in terms of being able to compete in a sustainable way.

It is a tired cliché but there are times when you do have to take one step backwards in order to take two steps forward. And broadly speaking, that is where the club finds itself at the moment. The ‘bounce’ we had under Dalglish gave everyone optimism that we were going in the right direction – and our performance in the cups last season was evidence we can still mix it with the best in knock out competition.

The decision to sack Dalglish was both clinical and ruthless. But it was also calculated. It was a brave decision; sacking a club legend that delivered a cup. It was a decision with the intent of looking not just to the next season or two, but to the next 5-10 seasons. It was a commitment to a long term view and a continuity of philosophy that the club could build from. There is no question Dalglish deserved another season; but FSG always wanted a younger coach in situ that could see through a long term vision.

Off the pitch

The decision to appoint Brendan Rodgers was also a brave call. It is a big step up for a man that has little substance behind incredibly impressive rhetoric and persona. But then, at 39, you have to take a view on how good you think hecan be as well as what he has achieved previously.

Beyond the appointment of Rodgers there has been clear evidence that the inexperience at the top of the club has led to naivety in decision making. In fact, the process of recruiting the new manager led to criticism in how it was managed.

At the unveiling of Rodgers there was clearly an uncomfortable moment when Rodgers was asked about a potential Sporting Director. An issue that you would hope would have been discussed and resolved before talking to the world’s media. Indeed, the official statement by the club said “the owners are committed to following the continental sporting director model” – something that was contradicted by Rodgers himself at the unveiling.

There was a huge amount of positive noise coming out of the club prior to Rodgers appointment about a new structure; one that would align the club with the likes of Barcelona. Whilst new appointments have been made; and a new technical committee is now in situ, there has been little fanfare around how this new structure will work. The loss of Pep Segura is also a blow as somebody that has helped transform our academy.

John HenryOne of the names that were being reported as a potential Sporting Director was Txiki Begiristain who has now been appointed in the same role at Manchester City. The failure to recruit Begiristain may well prove to be a missed opportunity.

The perception here is that the owners abandoned a well defined plan to accommodate a new, ambitious manager that wanted to stamp his authority and ideas on the club.

From the outside looking in; it looks as though abandoning that original structure was the wrong decision. It is important to note that any wrong decision can be unpicked with hindsight; but what Liverpool are really lacking at the moment is somebody with the experience, wisdom and leadership to look ahead.

The transfer day fiasco was a clear sign of naivety. The broad principles of our transfer policy were right this summer; as we looked to balance reducing an unsustainable wage bill with the recruitment of young, ambitious players that fit the mould of a new manager’s philosophy. But something clearly went wrong.

Most supporters will accept mistakes if they can see that the thought process behind them is trying to progress the club. At present, each and every decision being made at the top of the club is being viewed in isolation – meaning mistakes are magnified as isolated decisions – all contributing to a perception that those at the top of the club lack ambition or are taking the club backwards. Whereas the reality is more likely naivety is creating those perceptions.

On the pitch

Naive decision making isn’t just confined to off the pitch. On it, we are making a series of avoidable mistakes that are influencing our results. It is critical to remember that we are a team some way off maturity; and we do not yet have the right personnel to fully execute the manager’s philosophy. But there are some basic things we can do better.

Starting with Rodgers; he has suffered unfairly with having to walk into a club that for pure commercial purposes has opened its doors to the world. Being Liverpool has done Rodgers no favours in some respects. He isn’t an actor, he is a football manager. There were always going to be times when he appears a bit wooden, clichéd or clumsy. But Rodgers should not be judged on his performance in Being Liverpool – it is what happens on the pitch that counts.

His in game decision making and tactical awareness have been good so far. He has shown that he isn’t scared to make a decision; and that he will take risks. He looks to be a brave manager which is exactly what we need and expect at Liverpool Football Club.

But he does have a small squad. The first team players should not be getting anywhere near the Capital One Cup with the threadbare squad we have. If that means we have to sacrifice it, so be it. Progress in the Europa League makes more sense – and Rodgers has thus far managed that competition well.

Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers is also a top class orator. He has spoken out against the treatment of Suarez and also referees. He is saying and all of the right things; and he gives the impression of a man that will not be bullied or intimidated by Ferguson.

But he still has a lot to learn – and you cannot help but feel that a conduit would benefit him in the administrative side of the manager’s role. A manager has to be a politician, accountant and PR guru these days – which is why the role of a Sporting Director can be a critical one – providing the chemistry is right. Rodgers himself has to take some of the blame for the fallout of deadline day – and you can’t help but feel a more experienced head would have provided a different outcome.

Rodgers and his team are on a learning curve; and with so much reliance on youth both in the team and in the dug out you have to expect naivety will influence decision making at times.

We are asking a lot to see consistency from a manager that we want to grow with the club and a team that is reliant on teenagers this season.

Perception isn’t always reality

One bad result doesn’t mean that the club is heading into oblivion. We have always lost games; even at the peak of our powers.

But the issue that the owners need to face up to is that perception amongst some supporters is that the club has no direction. So each and every loss will be met with a chorus of questions about where the club is heading, and its ambition.

If the perception of supporters isn’t the reality of the owner’s agenda then actions need to back up words. The club needs stronger leadership; either in the form of a CEO or Werner or Henry on the ground in Liverpool: somebody that can take ownership of the direction and add some experience to decision making.

January is an important month for Liverpool and FSG – they need to bring in players, but most importantly, they need to be seen to act. Failure to do so will only make the natives more restless.

The long term vision for Liverpool I think is the right one – but there needs to be some tweaks in the methodology to get us there. Whilst Barcelona are the pinnacle for where we want to be; you only have to look at Dortmund to see the kind of blueprint we are trying to follow.

If the Dortmund model is where we want to get to – put into place the right structure and a Leader capable of getting us there. We may then find the journey that bit smoother – even with the odd setback.

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