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Liverpool’s Constantly Moving Goalposts

(Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
I don’t mean literal moving goalposts. That’s not why they’re 22 points clear. I mean that for some reason, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool’s recent success always seems to be good, but then not good enough.

When Jurgen Klopp walked on to the pitch in Madrid for the last Champions League final, Liverpool had lost every final he’d taken them to. They hadn’t won a single thing.

At that time he’d only won one cup final as a manager – a 5-2 win over Bayern Munich in the 2012 DFB-Pokal with Borussia Dortmund. Klopp had lost 6 of his 7 appearances in major cup finals (I’m not going to list them all, look at them yourself).

And (rightly so) questions were asked of Klopp and Liverpool. Could they win anything? Could he win anything? Football teams (and pets) seem to take on the personality of their managers (and owners), and Liverpool had taken on Klopp’s image of the ‘nearly men’ – and taken on all the good stuff too, the power, the pace, the passion, you know it all.

But they hadn’t won anything. That’s why that final against Tottenham Hotspur was so important. (Side note: it was important for Mauricio Pochettino as Spurs hadn’t won anything either, and with far less appearances in cup finals. Look where he is now)

Lo and behold, Liverpool win the final. Cue scenes on Merseyside, hailing Klopp as a genius, Virgil van Dijk’s Ballon d’Or campaign, and so on and so forth. The tables had turned, and so they should have – the collective monkey was off everyone’s backs.

They also finished with 97 points in the league that season and still came second to Manchester City’s 98. (Side note: They had 0.02 less Points Per Game than City that season. What a mad season)

Pep’s Manchester City had amassed 198 points in two years, and they were absurd totals to try and beat. Again, Liverpool were football’s nearly men, letting a 10 point lead over Manchester City slip last year seemed to make them bottlers again – not cup final bottlers, now they’re league bottlers.

Did the goalposts begin to move? How can you be bottler if you’ve won a trophy? But still, letting City win after being 10 points clear is a fair criticism – if you want to be champions, you can’t let that happen. I would argue that Klopp just needed that first trophy to give them lift off, but again, fair point.

97 points would have won you the league in all but the last two Premier League seasons, by the way. Klopp’s work was brilliant, but not quite brilliant enough. But still, everything seemed set up for them to make a run at the league the next season.

Now here we are in February 2020. Liverpool have basically won the Premier League. All that’s left is for them to cross the t’s and dot the i’s. The number of Premier League records they can break is endless (again, read them yourself, it’s mind boggling). Klopp has built possibly the greatest team the Premier League has ever seen.

But in my eyes, people are moving Liverpool’s goalposts.

The metaphorical ones. Every time they seem to accomplish something, it’s all of sudden a case of “yes that’s great, but what about this“. They became the first English side to win the Continental Treble when they won the Club World Cup in December. “Yes that’s great, but what about the English treble?”.

Well, they’re certainly good enough. The league is already a formality to be quite honest, and they need only three more points to match Manchester United’s title winning treble team, and fourteen to match Arsenal’s Invincibles. There’s still 38 more points up for grabs.

However, ask any fan, of any club, in any league – if you can guarantee them a league title and nothing else, they’d bite your hand off.

But still, the goalposts were moved.

Liverpool should be winning the treble. They’ve already won the league, concentrate on the cups – win everything. “Liverpool must win the treble to be remembered like Man Utd’s 1999 heroes.” Like Example said, “Don’t give me that, that’s a load of tosh.”

Apparently being the best Premier League side of all time isn’t enough to be remembered.

Yes, they’re good enough as I’ve already said, but what Liverpool seem to have to do to impress everyone seems to constantly change.

They’re obviously 1-0 down in the tie to Atlético Madrid in the Champions League, but bigger comebacks have been made in that competition. They’re still in the FA Cup, despite Klopp taking criticism for fielding the youth team, and not showing up to game. It’s not like they’ve just completely fobbed all of those competitions off for the league.

Liverpool haven’t won the league in about 30 years. They should go for it. And they have. But why do they have to go from only having to win one thing, to winning everything – in less than a year? Why do they have to win the treble? I’m not saying don’t go for it, I’m saying everyone needs to stop changing what Liverpool have to do to become a great team.

I understand why people say it, but Liverpool are team that could dominate for a decade, not just one year.

Why do we have to move the goalposts? Why can’t we just set them down, take a seat, and enjoy what we’re watching?

Super Bowl LIV in review

(Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo)
A quick look back on the Kansas City Chief’s 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers. All of these things could probably be looked at in a lot more depth, but, I just wanted to get my thoughts out there while they were still fresh.

Well I don’t know about you, but I quite enjoyed that.

Patrick Mahomes is a pretty exciting player. He has been since the start of last season, to the end of this one. I’ve mentioned his arm strength before, and boy can he fling ’em, but you can tell him and the Chiefs came to play right from the start.

I thought Mahomes’ run on 3rd and 11 near the end of the first quarter, which ended in that big hit from Jimmie Ward and the ball flying out of bounds, was an example of that. He wasn’t sliding. He wanted to take that in for the touchdown.

Yes, also, exciting sometimes doesn’t mean taking care of the ball – and Mahomes had two interceptions. That first one was kind of a pretty un-Mahomes-like throw, I’m no professional Quarterback, but I really don’t know why he threw that – maybe it was a symptom of Mahomes blatantly disregarding the rules (as usual, and to some success) and thinking “I trust my arm, I can squeeze that in there”. But he couldn’t. The other interception was pretty unlucky in my opinion. It was slightly behind Tyreek Hill, but for me, he could do something with it.

But either way, big runs, big throws, big turnovers – Mahomes was exciting.

That 3rd and 11 run by Mahomes led to one of two huge 4th down conversions for the Chiefs too. For me, going for it on 4th down is super exciting, and these were both ace. The first Damien Williams one up the middle was just classic-bread-and-butter-good-old running the ball stuff. The Mahomes option/flip to Williams in the 2nd quarter was pretty slick too. Nick Bosa was right there.

Despite the two interceptions, Shea Serrano summed up Mahomes pretty well:

That bomb really changed the whole momentum of the game. That bomb was pure Mahomes. The stones to throw that pass, in that situation, at that time in the game, at that score. My lord. Patrick Mahomes take a bow if you haven’t already. He also had that pass to Sammy Watkins over Richard Sherman (who had a tough day) on a 2nd and 7 in the 4th quarter. It wasn’t Mahomes’ best game, but when they needed him, he stepped up.

Damien Williams was ace too – 104 yards and a touchdown on the ground isn’t too shabby. Many saw him as MVP but I can see why Mahomes got it. As we were saying during the game, it’s not Man of the Match like in football, it’s the Most Valuable Player. Patrick Mahomes was the most valuable.

49ers’ fans would probably argue the referees were pretty valuable for the Chief’s too.

Kansas City probably got away with a false start in the 4th quarter on a 3rd and 14 for San Francisco. That pass interference on George Kittle earlier in the game in the 2nd quarter with 14 seconds left was harsh. Let’s be honest, it was harsh. But the rule is harsh. A push is a push, even if it’s a little push – it’s still a push. You can see it bought him some space, so the right call for me. But still harsh, people have got away with more.

Speaking of George Kittle’s San Francisco 49ers, I hate to say it, but, I think they bottled it.

Jimmy Garoppolo missed a few open passes. That deep shot to Emmanuel Sanders. That wide open George Kittle over the middle. The questions were there when he only threw the ball 8 times for 77 yards against Green Bay in the conference championship. I hate to do it, but, he just wasn’t good enough. Is he good enough? I really don’t know. He had some moments in the regular season (the win in New Orleans) but, the questions have always been there.

And Poor Kyle Shanahan.

The man is a fantastic coach, there’s no doubt about it. But I think he bottled it too. Just keep running the ball. You’re up by 10 in the 4th quarter. Just keep running the ball. Yes, Chris Simms said on NBC’s Pro-Football Talk that it’s not like they were just ripping off huge runs each time, which is true, but the reason they were in the Super Bowl was because they ran the ball so well all year. Just do what you do best. To me, those weird little flips, reverses, and motions seemed to do well. Just keep doing that. Who cares if it’s a bit gimmicky, you win the Super Bowl!

Now people will always mention 28-3, and now 20-10, and I’m not slating Shanahan – but in my opinion these criticisms seem to have a bit of justification now. He will be back, and this next season will be a huge challenge for him as an NFL head coach. To pick himself up, and pick his team up, and to go again will be hard. We saw it with McVay this year. But he can do it.

All in all, I think the best team won. Well, actually maybe not. The best player won. Mahomes willed them to that win. Plus I think everyone is happy for Andy Reid (me included).

The interesting thing is to see what will happen next with Kansas City. Mahomes contract runs out at the end of next year, and you know they’re going to give him as much money as they can – and he deserves it, everyone in the world would do the same. But will it be a crippling contract? Or is now the start of the ‘Mahomes Era’?

All info from Pro Football Reference, Spotrac and me watching the ruddy Super Bowl.

An Englishman’s Ode to Kobe

(AFP/Getty Images)
I thought I’d write a few words about how, even though I never realised, Kobe Bryant got me into basketball.

Kobe Bryant sounds weird. It was always just Kobe.

Kobe got me into basketball and the NBA.

I remember playing as Kobe on NBA 2K9. I had no previous interest in basketball, or really knew anything about it – but I played a demo, enjoyed it, and bought the game. At 16 it got me interested in the sport, but I eventually found out that in England it was always kind of hard to watch the NBA. In-between the time difference, school, and University, watching games was near impossible. I’m not going to go into how I managed to end up watching games, but the 2010 Finals were the first time I truly followed the NBA.

Kobe was MVP of those finals when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 4 games to 3. I didn’t really know what I was watching to be perfectly honest, but I bloody loved it. Kobe got buckets in those finals too:

  • Game 1 – 30
  • Game 2 – 21
  • Game 3 – 29
  • Game 4 – 33
  • Game 5 – 38
  • Game 6 – 26
  • Game 7 – 23

He averaged almost 30, but, I just remember it captivating me – and Kobe was the star of the show. Even when Ray Allen was going off for all those threes in Game 2, I just vividly remember (and it might not even have been in that game, but that’s not the point) Kobe sticking his hand right in front of Allen’s face, daring him to shoot. I was thinking: “What on earth is that?” The notion of it was just so weird to me, because I was so new to the game. That, alongside him stood on the scorers table, are what I remember from those finals.

I was hooked. Kobe was considered the best in the first series I’d ever watched. The man would do whatever it took to win, and I saw it for all of those 7 games.

Mamba Mentality.

Now I’d like to take you to the 2012 Olympics.

This was really the first time I was able to watch basketball at a reasonable time (I know, woe is me). I knew who the players were. I knew LeBron, I knew KD, I knew Chris Paul, and of course I knew Kobe. I remember him and LeBron from those Olympics. Not much of a story here, but Kobe’s what I remember.

People always talk about how the 2008 Olympics were his magnum opus.

They went to him down the stretch. But I didn’t watch that. I remember them doubling Pau Gasol and they still couldn’t stop him, and I thought: “Woah boy, here comes Kobe time!” He had some big shots in 2012, a big offensive rebound and put back, but no real take over. Not knocking him, the game didn’t need that.

But the point is that’s what you expected from Kobe. You expected him to take over. You expected him to do whatever it took to win.

Mamba Mentality.

The man tore his achilles tendon literally CARRYING his team into the playoffs. The Lakers (who were supposed to be a ‘Super Team’ that season with him, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol) were average heading to the 2013 playoffs, but Kobe became more of a passer, and they won games. They lost in the first round, but that’s neither here nor there – no Kobe. That season I remember so vividly. I remember him tweeting about taking the ball into the post (or something like that) really aggressively because that’s how he saw the Lakers winning the series.

He did whatever it took to win.

Mamba Mentality.

I’m not here to talk about his famous work ethic, the fact he has 2 numbers retired at The Staples Centre, or he scored 81 in a game against the Raptors. I’m not here to mention his rings, his MVP, or his All-Star appearances. I don’t really know what I’m here to talk about.

I just wanted to say thank you to Kobe. He got me into Basketball, and I never even knew it. He was there when I grew an interest in it, and helped turn an interest into love. He made it fun to watch. He was fun to watch. He’s the reason I’m here, trying to write about the NBA. He started it all.

I never really thought about it until last night.

Thank you Kobe.

Mamba Mentality.

All info from Basketball Reference and my Kobe reflecting memory.

Success and Andy Reid

(AP)
Regardless of how Reid is respected around the NFL without a championship, and with Super Bowl LIV around the corner, I want people to know – he’s already successful.

Andy Reid is 7th in NFL history for the most wins. He has taken two different teams to the Super Bowl (and if you know the outcome of the upcoming one let me know, I’ve got my eyes on 12/1 and 16/1 odds for Kelce or Kittle to be the game’s MVP but that’s neither here nor there), been to seven Conference Championship games, and won nine division titles – in twenty years as a head coach.

Reid will more than likely move up to sixth on the list next season (touch wood) being only six wins behind Paul Brown with 207. But the six coaches above him have a combined 29 NFL/Super Bowl titles between them. They’re all, besides Belichick, Hall of Famers (as I think Reid should be) but the only other coach without a ring and over 200 wins isn’t in Canton.

The criticism has been around that he “can’t win the big one”, which, to be fair, is at least true? I mean, he’s not won the big one, he doesn’t have a Super Bowl. He’s got a decent chance to do it this year, that Mahomes dude is pretty good. His arm strength reminds me of that episode of Samurai Jack when he complains that his sword isn’t strong enough – but actually it’s his arm. So he gets kind of like a bionic sleeve to make his arm strong, which leads to him chopping through stuff like a madness as his arm’s dead strong. That’s Mahomes. Futuristic weaponry for a right arm.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes, Mr. Reid.

I’ve already listed some accomplishments, but I want you to all know – none of this Super Bowl malarky matters. I believe it’s different for coaches. As Thierry Henry said in a recent interview:

What is success? I had some coaches who I won nothing with, but they made me a better player. That is success.

I’d like to start with two quarterbacks taken first overall in their respective drafts – Michael Vick and Alex Smith. Both played under Reid, Vick in Philadelphia and Smith in Kansas City.

In 2006 with Atlanta, Vick rushed for 1,039 yards, a then record for a quarterback, averaging 64.9 yards a game on the ground. He passed for 2,474 (averaging 154.6 yards a game), which is the second best in his time at Atlanta. But was I wanted to point out, is that when he got to the Eagles, his passing yards exploded. In 2010 and 2011 he threw for 3,018 yards (averaging 251.5) and 3,303 yards (averaging 254.1) respectively, whilst still running for 676 yards in 2010 (averaging 56.3) and 589 in 2011 (averaging 45.3). His rushing went down a little as you can see. Was that age? The system? I’m not sure, but, it was clearly still an important part of Reid’s offense at that time.

No one can deny that 2006 season for Vick was exciting as hell, but, Reid’s system made his passing insane. All of these below stats were his best – and they were all in Philly.

  • Completion Percentage – 62.6%
  • Passing Touchdowns – 21
  • Passing Yards in a Season – 3,303
  • Interception Percentage – 1.6% (except in Pittsburgh, but he only played a few games and it’s .1% better)
  • Yards Gained per Pass Attempt – 8.1

Reid had him throwing bombs too, because Vick had a cannon. That Eagle’s offense also passed what I’ve heard Bill Simmons call the “Eye Test” – they did some cool stuff (see the Monday Night Massacre) nothing revolutionary, but it was fun. Actually, here’s kind of what I mean, watch the first play on this – the roll to the left, then the deep throw. Cracking stuff.

Vick was always a good player though, and had success before he played for Andy Reid. Alex Smith did too, but, I feel what Reid did with him is fantastic.

Smith’s struggles in his first few seasons with San Francisco are well documented, but I want to look at his 2011 season first, that was under Jim Harbaugh. In his best season as a 49er, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, threw the second most touchdowns (and his career high was only one more than the 17 he threw in 2011) and had his best Quarterback Rating by far (90.7). Then Kaepernick took over and the 49ers went somewhere else, and Smith was traded to Kansas City, for Andy Reid’s first season with the Chiefs.

In his five years in Kansas City, Smith was a Pro Bowler for three of them (the only times in his career so far) and threw for over 3,000 yards in every single one of them. He attempted more passes per season in KC than he ever did in San Fran, and threw for over 20 Touchdowns for the first times in his career too, and only had a Quarterback Rating under 90.7 once (and that was 89.1) . I’m not too sure where I’m going with this, except to say that Reid worked his magic again, and turned Smith into more than the game manager he was in San Francisco. His 2017 season was the best of his career by far (and was under Reid) – 4,042 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, and a Quarterback Rating of 104.7. He gained almost 270 yards of offense a game that season, 54 more than his most in San Francisco, and when you think about average starting positions on offense – that’s points baby!

There’s no doubt that Reid seems to like pace in his systems, from Jackson for the Eagles to Hill for the Chiefs, and that could be why these quarterbacks seem to progress so much. Smith’s longest career passes were all under Reid.

You see that system with Mahomes too, who has undoubtedly flourished under Reid. Yes the man has talent, but the reservations people seemed to have when drafting him because of the Air Raid system he played under at Texas Tech (with its focus on passing) let him slide in the draft to Kansas City. Surely that focus on passing is what helped him stand out under an offensive minded Head Coach, throwing for 50 (!!!) Touchdowns in his first (!!!) season as a starter. Maybe the success with Mahomes comes from the regular comparisons to Brett Favre, who he was the Quarterback Coach for in Green Bay from 1997 to 1998.

Reid improves Quarterbacks, there’s no denying this. That is good coaching. Making players better is success, as Thierry says.

Reid’s coaching tree is pretty impressive as well. He has employed Sean McDermott, Matt Nagy, Ron Rivera, Doug Pederson and John Harbaugh. Rivera and Nagy both have Coach of the Year awards, and Perderson and Harbaugh both have Super Bowl rings.

Maybe it’s cruel that his assistants have championships before him, but they’ve not have Reid’s success. 20 years in the NFL, improving players, winning games. I’m sure you all saw the stat that only he and Bill Belichick are the only coaches to beat every NFL team twice. I’m not claiming to be the first person to praise Andy Reid’s handling of Quarterbacks, I just wanted to express my feelings.

Andy’s had success, now he just needs a ring.

All information taken from somewhere not stated is from NFL.com, Pro Football Reference and Max Kellerman’s vocal cords.