Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

We like underdogs – especially in football

stick_figure_soccer_practice_500_wht_6086As a supporter of a team trying to make its way in the Premier League for the third time of asking I know what it’s like.

Burnley FC is the only English-owned club in the division and the great majority of its team is English. It’s also one of the founder members of the Football League and from one of the smallest towns to support a club at this level.

We lost our first game at home after the inept referee missed shirt tugging in the box and didn’t give us a penalty – a fate we suffered in previous outings at this level.

In our second game last week we played the once mighty Liverpool. (Which is possibly about to become the richest club in the division as a Chinese company is interested in buying them from their current American owners).

On Friday in the Times sports section there was a lengthy article eulogising Jurgen Klopp’s approach.  Headed “Flooding the box and the right fuel to get Liverpool firing” it described Liverpool as the highest goal scorers in the Premier League in 2016 (45 in 16 matches after only managing 22 in their previous 20 games).

The writer put it down to Klopp’s strategy of getting players into the opposition box. Adam Lallana said “The manager says a sign of a good game is having a lot of men in the box. That’s how he wants us to play. It’s attacking football but as long as we get our protection right behind that, then why not? You’ve got more chance of scoring goals”.

Isn’t that too obvious?

Klopp also likes to work his players using drills to get all the outfield players involved e.g. Couthino scoring against Arsenal after 19 passes. (I think I saw Chelsea do that a couple of seasons ago too). So the players have to practise outmanoeuvring opponents and breaking down defences so that strikers can get onto the final ball in the box..

Sounds like common sense to me.

Their tactical coach Pep Ljinders says it’s all about tactical patterns “which give the individuals stability in an unpredictable game

That sounds like football managementspeak (the worst kind)!

Also Klopp is not relying on Sturridge all the time either. (After his pathetic Euro16 performance why would he you might ask?) But Klopp welcomed him back into the team after another injury and said “Of course he is an option when he is fit” – exactly.

And of course you are what you eat in sport these days. Arsene Wenger often gets the credit for revolutionising players’ diets but every professional club now takes notice of nutritionists and sport scientists.

Liverpool have the nutritionist from Bayern Munich who with the fitness coach helped Liverpool to outrun Arsenal with a Premier League record for distance covered (117.6km). As Lindjers said “if we win the fitness we win everything

Well not quite!

You might have expected Burnley to turn up expecting a thrashing. After all they haven’t beaten Liverpool for 42 years and have lost all their previous premiership games against them.

Sean Dyche and the team had different ideas however. Two first half goals by their striking partnership of Andre Grey and Sam Voakes put the cat among the pigeons.

Liverpool huffed and puffed; their star players tried to score from distance because they couldn’t outmanoeuvre the Burnley defence. They had 26 shots on goal and a dozen corners but couldn’t score. Burnley had 1 corner and 3 shots on goal and two hit the back of the net. End result Burnley 2, Liverpool 0.

Statistically Burnley only had 19% possession, the lowest ever for a winning team in the Premier League. But they outran Liverpool (115.3 km to 113 km) and George Boyd ran more than anyone else and made more completed tackles.

And for all the international players that Liverpool paraded – and credit to Burnley’s new signing from Anderlecht Steven Defour for the assist on the second goal – they couldn’t score.

And all the England players reminded us of how rubbish they were in the Euro16 competition.

It won’t be like this every week but doesn’t it feel good when the unsung underdog puts one over on supposedly superior opposition.

And as for the Times sports writer I don’t expect a glowing piece about a small team in Lancashire anytime soon.

And if you’re into stats here are some you might find interesting:

  • Burnley won their first league game against Liverpool since September 1974, having gone seven without a win since then.
  • Sam Vokes became the first Burnley player to score a league goal against Liverpool at Turf Moor since Ray Hankin in March 1975 – they had failed in six games since then.
  • Burnley scored more in this game than they managed in seven previous home Premier League games.
  • Vokes scored his first Premier League goal in his 28th appearance in it.
  • Liverpool have only kept one clean sheet in their past 11 away Premier League games (6-0 v Aston Villa).
  • Since Jurgen Klopp took over, only Aston Villa (12) and West Ham (10) have had more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than Liverpool (nine).
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Author: mikethepsych

He says he's a psychologist but aren't we all?

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