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The Sleeping Giant
A wise man once said, “life is a rollercoaster, you’ve just got to ride it.” Think about those words. Embrace them. Then suck those words in as if it’s oxygen you oh so desperately crave. Life is a rollercoaster, you’ve just got to ride it. What sums up my life as a football manager if not those words?
So, this is the third and conclusive part of my seventh season in management. So far this season we are riding high in the league and are pretty much runaway leaders. The Champions League is hotting up as we begin the knockout stage. As expected, we have cruised through to the 4th round of the F.A. Cup. Unfortunately, we have crashed out of the Carabao Cup – damn you United! So, compared to last season we are already failing. However, a victory in the Euro Super Cup back in August means we are back on level terms. We could potentially relive the glory days of last season (and the season before that now I’m thinking about it) and win the quadruple. *Sigh* Why am I forever chasing the shadows of my past? Why am I so damn good?
‘Look at him Javi. Look at his beautiful young face. He’s a specimen, isn’t he? One of a kind.’
‘Yes boss, he looks a very good goalkeeper.’
I watched as Alban Lafont strapped up his goalkeeper gloves, laughing and talking to his goalkeeper coaches. His horrible goalkeeper jersey freshly pressed and brand spanking new.
‘Er, hi boss, I would just like to say thank you for the opportunity–’
‘Yeah, yeah,’ I said, waving Grabara’s goodbye off as he thrust a hand my way, his other holding a box containing his belongings. ‘Goodluck, all the best,’ I said, moving him out of my line of vision as quickly as possible so I could return my gaze to mine and the clubs most expensive signing ever.’
F.A. Cup 4th Round – Bournemouth, 4-1
F.A. Cup 5th Round – West Ham, 2-1
Champions Cup 1st Knockout Round – Galatasaray, 1-2 LOSS
Liverpool Points: 73
Chelsea Points: 49
A successful month in the league with two wins that sees a gulf of 24 points between us and 2nd and a further two wins in the F.A. Cup that sees us through to the next round. Unfortunately, our European campaign got back off to a poor start as we lost in the Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi stadium – that’s a mouthful – but thankfully avoided complete embarrassment by gaining an away goal. Even still, we know we face an uphill battle when we next play them.
As an aside, the first best loser (2nd place) has now changed. Everton have hit some bad form and have dropped from 2nd to 3rd, opening the door to Chelsea. I must admit, as the Liverpool manager, the fans and local journals seem very pleased that the trailing pack is all our biggest rivals – Everton, Chelsea and United. ‘Hows the view from down there lads? Shite? I tell you what, it’s great from up here at the top.’
‘He’s fractured his arm boss.’
‘Are you sure?’ I watched in utter horror as Lafont’s hand flopped around as the physio ran some tests on the field. ‘No, not Alban. Not my Lafont. Please God.’ I started to sob as Lafont was stretchered off. Javi made Zidane, our backup keeper, warm up, as all eyes watched Lafont being carried down the tunnel. The only noise in the stadium was the horrific screaming of a man in pain, it was me.
Arsenal, 1-2 LOSS
Man United, 0-3 LOSS
Champs League 1st Knockout Round – Galatasaray, 3-0
F.A. Cup 6th Round – Southampton, 3-3 LOSS on penalties
Liverpool Points: 76
Chelsea Points: 62
Well, well, well. A real mixed bag. The good news is we managed to overcome the Galatasaray deficit and are through to the next round. The bad news is our 18 match winning streak in the Premiership has come to a resounding, and face crunching halt. Back-to-back defeats in the league really pissed over our Champions League knockout stage parade. Mourinho, man. He really is the enemy. He is one of the few managers who seems to have the nous to unlock us as a team. It’s both frustrating or exhilarating whenever we play them. Either joy or despair as there never seems to be an in between when we play each other. To compound what has been a really poor month already, we also managed to lose to Southampton in the F.A. Cup. It was an exciting game to be fair. My team was highly rotated due to the important Galatasaray game only a few days prior and despite the lads best efforts we were knocked out on penalties. That means two of the trophies we won last season cannot be successfully defended now. Fuck sake. If it wasn’t for our comfortable lead in the Prem I might be feeling very nervous about my position as manager right now. Oh, and bloody Lafont is injured isn’t he? Fuck sake. He looks likely to miss most of the remaining season now too. Suddenly the warning lights are flashing.
‘And the first draw of the Champions League quarter-final is… Liverpool against… Real Madrid.’
I sat there nodding with a grin. Real Madrid are not the same team of five years ago. They no longer have Ronaldo, Bale or Ramos. They are a big team in name only at the moment and they are not the toughest team to draw. Just to add even further undercurrent to the game, back in my PSG days I beat them in the Champions League Final 4-0. It was the first of my European trophies. Yes, my name would turn those lovely white kits of those brown with fear.
Champs League Quarter-Final – Real Madrid, 3-0
Champs League Quarter-Final – Real Madrid, 1-0
Champs League Semi-Final – Atletico Madrid, 2-1
Liverpool Points: 89
Man United Points: 71
I like April. April is a good month in my opinion. Do you want to know why? Because we are back to being undefeated, we’ve dropped only two points out of a possible 15 in the league and we’ve beat two (of three) of the biggest teams in Spain in the Champions League. In truth, neither of the Spanish teams scared me. Not anymore. There is only two teams I look down the list and think, ‘Nah, anyone but those two please.’ Those two teams are United and my former team PSG, who ironically are drawn together in the other Semi-Final. It’ll be interesting to see how that tie plays out.
It was during the month of April that Chelsea hit a horrific patch of form and lost three games in a row, opening the door to United to slip past – not before landing a punch to Chelsea’s groin, I’m sure. Everton have now dropped down to 4th. Still a respectable position considering they’re a small club. Sorry Everton fans.
‘Well, I’ve never seen that before,’ the commentator said, both shocked and mesmerised. ‘Diego Simeone is crying and attempting to hang himself from the stand by using his own tie.’
Crystal Palace, 4-0
Champs League Semi-Final – Atletico Madrid, 6-0
Liverpool Points: 96
Man United Points: 80
Another massive month for us. Some big scoreline in the league and our comprehensive victory over Athletico see’s us through to another European final. What a time to be alive. A wonderful moment was made even sweeter when a former player, Rodrigo Bentancur approached me after the game.
‘You have done very well for yourself since our days in Braunschweig, haven’t you?’ He grinned, all pally and nice.
‘I have yeah. Better than you, that’s for sure. What have you won in the past five seasons? One Europa League? Not even a Spanish Cup. Terrible that. Remember when I asked if you wanted to make your move to Braunschweig permanent and you said no you wanted to move somewhere with a chance of winning stuff? How’s that worked out?’ I smirked and raised my hands. ‘Good choice, dickhead.’
So, as you can see we won the league. Two-years in a row. Give me a second to let that sink in. No, I haven’t pulled my pants down I swear. The team did brilliantly. It’s actually eerie how similar the two seasons were. Out of the 38 games, we won 31 times, drawing 3 times and losing four. In both seasons. So not only did we win the league back-to-back we also did it on identical points and with the same results. How fucking weird is that? To make it even more strange, we also had the exact same goal difference too. Albeit, we scored 125 goals and conceded 40 in my first season here, this year we scored less, managing 119 but conceded 6 fewer at 34 (I love you, Lafont). Now tell me that isn’t some kind of weird-arse episode of X-Files?
We now have 20 league titles, trailing United by only 1. When I arrived here, I tasked myself with making Liverpool a powerhouse again. To awake a sleeping giant. Yes, the first season had a massive trophy haul and an excellent start, but to win the title back-to-back proves just how good this team is. Holy shit, could we actually manage to overturn this deficit and win it three times in a row? As an aside, in the past five seasons, I’ve now won the league title five times in a row. Who’d have fucking thought that? As you can imagine I’m now highly thought of in the world of football. Me, the little scruff who tried to chance his way through the Barca B team in my first season and couldn’t get a contract extension. Mental.
‘Alright lads, how is everyone feeling? Nervous? Tense? Scared?’ The lads shrugged. ‘I don’t blame you to be honest. I’d be fucking shitting myself too. I’ll tell you what, I spent most of the night on the toilet, throwing up one end, shitting out of the other. Disgusting it was. But that’s how nervous I am. I mean, have you seen PSG? Fuck me, that’s some team that. World class players in every position. If they don’t beat you with their starting eleven they’ll beat you with the other seven sat on the bench. Unbelievable they are. I should know, I managed them and won this Champions League trophy with them. Fantastic players. Anyway,’ I clapped my hands together. ‘Lets go out there and win this cup hey?’ Coutinho made a run for the toilet and Salah threw up into his boot.
Champions League Final – PSG, 2-1
And there we have it. It was a really intense game, to be honest, especially compared to my two previous European Finals which have been massive scorelines. The good news, however, is the club has won its first Champions League title since the famous 2005 game. It also means Liverpool has won the Europa League and the Champions League trophy in consecutive seasons. The club is most definitely on the rise. Two league titles and two European Cups. Not bad being a Liverpool fan at the moment is it? On a personal level, I’m still yet to itch the Barcelona scratch. I’ve been absolutely desperate to draw them in Europe ever since they overlooked me for the job three seasons ago. Bastards. Hopefully, we get to cross swords with them next season. I’m not bitter though.
A piece of me is disappointed still. Yes, we won the league and the Champions League but are the fans disappointed? In my first season, we managed four trophies, this time only three (that Euro Super Cup is legit – don’t try and take it away from me). Guess who won the Carabao Cup and F.A. Cup though? Yes, that’s right, bloody Mourinho’s United. Here’s me hoping he might be sacked. Fuck sake.
Now, the hardest decision for me isn’t about whether I will stay or go, this summer the difficult choices come down to the squad. There is a lot of old(er) players who may need to leave in order to allow the youngsters to cement themselves. Having a quick glance at some of those players I can see most are on huge wages too, so maybe it won’t be as hard as I first thought. We shall see.
In the meantime, some end of season stats for you all.
Player of the Season:
Roberto Firmino, ST – At the grand old age of 32 he has had his best season to date. He played 48 games and scored 48 goals overall, with 33 goals in the league despite only making 31 appearances. The man was unstoppable. To add to those amazing numbers he also sprinkled 14 assists on top. So overall he was involved with 62 goals. Some teams struggle to score that amount all season. He’s honestly been outstanding, what a player.
Malang Sarr, CB – 44 appearances, five goals and two assists with an average rating of 7.54. It’s funny really, he was my first signing at Liverpool, costing £38million, he’s now valued at £68million and leading the line in defence. He’s my favourite left-sided centre-back I’ve had so far I think. He’s not necessarily the best defender but I love his attacking numbers, last season he scored 3 and assisted on 8 occasions too. That’s right, fuck defending.
Nathaniel Clyne, RB – 37 games, 5 goals and 16 assists with an average rating of 7.73. He’s 33 for fuck sake. I extended his contract for another year because finding someone to replace (and replicate) him is proving incredibly difficult. Top drawer.
Arthur, CM – 33 games, 3 goals and 9 assists and an average rating of 7.41. He may be the vice-captain in name but really he’s the true captain of this club. He’s a world-class player and the engine of the team. He’s also my best mate after Lafont.
Divock Origi, ST – 30 games, 27 goals and 16 assists. Origi actually had the highest rating of all of the squad with 7.83. At 29 you’d put money on him being the man to take over as Firmino’s successor. He is also being chased by Barcelona – who seem to want everyone of my players, so we’ll see how that little saga plays out.
Mohamed Salah, ST – 42 games, 31 goals and 27 assists. Last seasons top performer – who won Footballer of the Year back in December. His performances were brilliant this season, even scoring in the Champions League final to win the game, however, at 32 I can imagine he’ll be taking a step back soon.
Well then. Another season done and dusted. Another year of success to add to my CV. Can we make it three in a row and topple United at the team to win the league most? Let’s hope so.
So that’s all for now folks, until next time.