“Progress” … or How I Learned to Sit on the Fence and Enjoy The View.

“Liverpool are much better under Brendan Rodgers.” …So says Glenn Johnson.
…and he would know right? He’s on the inside after all.

“He’s like the English Messi.” …and so said Steven Gerrard (rather embarrassingly in retrospect) about Joe Cole…
…so errr… you know… what players say ain’t exactly indisputable gospel.

I’m glad the lad is enjoying his football (maybe he could put a bit more thought into what he does on the field if that’s the case, like,) but Glenda’s opinion is one I’ve been reading quite a bit lately, so I know there are a fair few Reds fans out there that hold the same opinion.

Me… I’m just not one of them.
Which is not to say that I am definitely and intractably in the opposite camp.
I personally find myself in a weird sort of “limbo” area, where I’m occasionally pleasantly surprised, more often particularly frustrated, but just mostly a bit like Kelly McGillis in Top Gun… having “Lost That Lovin Feelin” (and hoping a bunch of Navy Fighter Jocks don’t start suddenly singing to me.)
(yeah right… like that’s just me?)

I still troll a bit of Reds news on a daily basis…
I still watch LFC games every week…
..but this week, for the first time, I saw the scheduled 5:30am kick off and thought “fuck that, I’ll DVR it and watch it when I get up.”
It is the first time I’ve not gotten out of bed regardless of kick off time, and watched the match live.
And frankly I’m pretty glad that was the case given the tepid performance against a West Ham side that parked a bus and said, “go on then, show us what you got”.
(Don’t get me wrong, it was no Southampton debacle… far from one of those far too oft quoted “worst performance I’ve seen from the Reds”… though Southampton was close as fuck to earning that distinction…. but the game was pretty “meh”, considering the opposition.)

Is Liverpool Football Club making progress?
Maybe that’s not really the right question to ask?
Maybe we need to be asking, “What is progress”?
Who defines it, after all?
For me… “progress” has to be quantifiable.

There’s no doubt you can point to certain areas and say… haha, there it is, right there… progress!

Last year we hit the post 40odd times.
This year we seem to have developed a serious aversion to wood and are tucking them away.
Last year at least 5 goalkeepers that I can think of just off the top of my head, faced Liverpool and put in the performance of their careers to rob us of points.
I can’t honestly think of a single keeper that has done that this season.
So we’ve scored 59 goals as a result… compared to 47 last season… with 6 games left to play.
Yes obviously its progress to score more goals and therefore put a few more points on the board…
… but I don’t know that I agree those stats indicate a “clear improvement in our attack” which is what I’ve read a lot of comments say recently.
They show an improvement in goal scoring, but not in attack in general, since last season we were creating hatfuls of chances every game (that’s attack) but just not converting them.

Last season we finished 8th on 52 points
This season we are in 7th on 49 points with 6 games remaining (essentially 18 points to play for, to add to that 49)
So again… that looks like progress of a sort, and we’ll know in May by what measure of progress it is.

Last season we won 14 games… so far this season we have won 13.
Last season we drew 10 games… so far this season we have drawn 10.
Last season we lost 14 games… so far this season we have lost 9.

So with 6 games left, there is likely to be an overall improvement to those stats… but again, one that is only really marginal (unless we win all 6?)

And then we come to “goals conceded”.
…40 last season.
…40 (to date) this season. (so… 6 clean sheets required then.)
…and yet there’s a fair groundswell of opinion that defensively we are considerably worse this season???

And of course… there are the cups.
Last season: Played for 2. Won 1. Runners-up in the 2nd.
This season: Played for 3. Exited (early) in all 3.

I know some don’t want to be bothered with these pesky cups… and would prefer to stick their fingers in their ears and chant “la, la, la, la” to those that would suggest this is regression… but that’s what it is whether you like it or not.

If you add cup games played to the above stats, it reads like this
Last season: Won 25 Drew 11 Lost 15
This season: Won 21 Drew 15 Lost 11 (with 6 games to be played)

I guess my point… if I have one… is simply… statistically… for me, any progress is marginal.

“But we’re playing lovely possession football”
Are we? Are we really?
Coz I’m seeing as many 50 yard Hollywood balls from Stevie G this season as we saw from both him and Charlie “the King of Hollywood Balls” Adam last season combined.

… and speaking of Stevie G.
Big Kudos to the man for soldiering into an age-defying season after several injury blighted seasons. He’s made some of his teammates look like Championship material this seasons…. But…
… For Fucks Sake Lad… go practice how to take a fuckin corner will you?
… or pass the duties off to someone who can.

There was quite the long-running joke regarding the “value” of Charlie Adam corners last season…
…but if Stevie G. twats the ball into one more defender’s nads…
… or takes one more corner that resembles Maverick doing a fuckin low altitude fly-by, 50 feet off the deck, causing a norwegian tourist in row 13 to spill his coffee all over his new replica shirt, before cashing and burning into the opposing corner flag…
… I’m taking fuckin hostages!

(attn: NSA internet monitor…. I am not actually going to take hostages, so please don’t sent the FBI or ATF or Blackwater strike team to my house.)

So, does it simply come down, for some, to “we have a better squad” than last season.
Sturridge and Coutinho are clearly quality signings.
Assaidi and Borini have added little to the squad.
Hendo and Downing have improved on their past season.
Carra has been a revelation, while Skrtel has been a capitulation.
Joe Cole has been sold.

But for all of last summer’s discussions of who could “fit into Brendan Rodgers style of playing” and who couldn’t…
… there’s this little tidbit from LFC.tv

“Jamie Carragher was the best passer on the pitch against West Ham on Sunday with one of the season’s highest accuracy rates.
While the only stat in football that really matters is the final score, Carragher’s figures make interesting reading. An impressive 54 of the Scouser’s 56 passes found their man – and the 35-year-old played a higher percentage of long passes than his fellow defenders too (12.5 per cent).
Carragher’s overall accuracy of 96.4 per cent was the sixth highest in the Barclays Premier League this weekend behind Papiss Cisse (100 per cent), Steven Taylor (97.62), Antolin Alcaraz (97.44), Arouna Kone (97.14) and Steven Caulker (97.14).
However, Carragher played significantly more passes than any of these players.
And Opta stats show Sunday’s game was not a one off – with our No.23 dropping below 85 per cent only once in his 10 full Barclays Premier League games this term.”

… not bad for a guy who was “past his sell-by date” for the vast majority of Reds fans last summer.
Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned there about other players who’ve experienced slumps in form. (or got bombed out, perhaps??)
(maybe not?)
(Progress? Hard to quantify since he’s retiring.)

Anyway… you all have your opinions.
I’m not gonna say, at this point, that anyone’s opinion is right or wrong.
Some will read what I’ve written and take it as anti-Brendan…
… its not…
… and that I have both feet firmly cemented in the “we haven’t progressed” camp.
… I don’t.
I’m just not in the “we’ve progressed and I’m happy with it” camp.

For me this season has been a very mixed bag of shit and shinola.
…some good stuff, some not so good stuff, some bad stuff.
I’m not suggesting that there are not signs of encouragement…. there are.
… but a “season in transition” suggested has been very much THAT…
… and the coming summer will be part of that… a BIG part if we are to “transition” to something truly better next season.