Review 2006

Ian from Art In Liverpool asks:
Why can't Liverpool FC win away from home?

Review 2006 Not too long ago, perhaps a couple of years, I discovered that teams play each other at home and then away in the same season. In other words, they play each other twice. Also, until about ten minutes ago I wouldn't be able to tell you the name of the Liverpool manager, although I know that someone called Steven Gerrard is in the team. This should signal that in fact I'm the last person who should be answering this question. Ask me for the full cast list of the late Robert Altman's film Short Cuts, I'm there. Why Mission: Impossible III was something of a disappointment for the studio, I've a few ideas. But football? Other than internationals and when it's impossible to ignore I haven't paid much attention since Everton were beaten by Manchester United in an FA Cup final in the 1980s. That was quite enough of that kind of pain thank you.

I decided to check with some experts. The Liverpool Echo have a regular section in their sport pages called The Jury and as luck would have it on the 16th November the question that four men in the street pondered was 'Why the contrast in the Red's home and away form?' Jimmy Pilnick from Huyton said: 'It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out why our away form has been awful. If you don't score goals and give soft ones away you won't win matches.' Damian Smith also from Huyton suggests that the team lacks a winning spirit: 'There are several new players struggling to make an impact and all of our away games have been difficult, but too many players accept defeat far too easily.' Ian McHale from West Derby agrees: 'Our 'big game' players have performed like cowards [?] we play to cautiously away and just sit deep and try to nick the first goal.' David Beattie from the Wirral doesn't seem to know either. In fact none of them really do, or address the question at all really other than that Liverpool aren't scoring enough goals. Right.

I cast the (football) net wider and more scientifically. I googled "Liverpool" and " away form" and discovered that when Liverpool failed to beat Middlesborough away from home it was despite a suggestion from manager Rafa Benitez that their performance would improve because 'maybe we will now be playing against teams away who don't have the same quality as the ones already faced'. Something was made of the fact that Steven Gerrard had been restored to his favourite position of central midfield. But it was all for naught as they benefited from a single point from this nil-nil draw despite many chances. I took a look at their previous form and in fact noticed that indeed despite some excellent wins at home, away, at least in Premiership games, their showing is shaky. Oddly, however, if it's a cup match, something perhaps with the more immediate goal (so to speak) of accessing the next round the form improves, particularly in the Champions League were they struck an excellent victory against Bordeaux. I'm beginning to sound like the late Kenneth Wolstenholme -- and I know who he is.

Quiet why they generally persist in winning at home for all that, who can say? All of the comments of The Jury would be valid if their whole form stank but there they are at the back end of October with four decent wins facing the real Kop then just a fortnight later going down three-nil to Arsenal (is that the right terminology?) But I can also see something of what Benitez meant - their home opposition has been generally weaker than away. Which suggests another option - that actually Liverpool aren't the team they were last season. For whatever reason their heart simply isn't in it, that their recent crop of players lack experience and possibly stamina, and that they're in a spiral to the middle of the table. What's to say in the New Year when they're playing the likes of Man Utd at home and Reading away the question won't be reverse to 'Why can't Liverpool FC win at home?'

What you have to love about football is that after reading a few paragraphs of someone else's ideas and a match report anyone can become an expert and have an opinion which can be argued against but I would suspect might be just as valid as that from someone whose followed the game much more closely and the gossip which surrounds it. I think the only answer you can give is that actually no one knows really. Not the fans, the pundits, the journalists, the manager or the players themselves. Or for that matter the people who call the phone in shows on local radio I always seem to end up listening to when I'm in a taxi. There are just too many variables, too many personalities, weather conditions, traveling conditions, emotions involved to give any kind of valid answer. But I can see the fun to be had in guessing.

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