Daniel Agger made all the headlines by comparing the play of his teammates to “headless chickens.” A look at the full set of comments he made to the Guardian reveal a problem that could do greater harm to his team’s prospects than a sensational headline.
“Sometimes we looked like headless chickens running around after the ball,” Agger said. “It is far from good enough. Everyone was angry and disappointed ?- some more than others -? but that is the way it is.”
The defender’s words were certainly borne out of frustration and true to an extent. Liverpool was excellent in dispatching West Brom on Oct. 29. Its performance level dipped in Saturday’s scoreless draw with at Anfield against Swansea City, but it was not as low as Agger and Kenny Dalglish say it was.
Swansea outperformed any other team that has visited Anfield in 2011-12. That Liverpool allowed the Swans to play to their maximum level is more troubling than the Reds’ inconsistency. Doing so against a better team will certainly lead to a loss.
The most stunning part his comments was not the “headless chickens” remark. It was what came after. “Everyone was angry and disappointed,” he said. “Some more than others -? but that is the way it is.”
The world knows Liverpool’s performances have been inconsistent. The world knows the Reds have been wasteful in front of goal. The world now knows that some players were angrier about Saturday’s result than others. Another way of looking at it is that some players were more content wit taking a point at home against a newly-promoted team than others were.
Because each Liverpool player does not share a uniform emotional reaction with his teammates doesn’t necessarily mean the Reds aren’t all pulling in the same direction. Nor does it mean they don’t all have the same level of emotional investment in the team’s success.
Agger going public with that nugget of information means he believes the attitude of some of his teammates deserve a little more scrutiny from the outside world. This alone won’t re-sink the ship SS Liverpool. But it changes the narrative about this LFC team that we’ve digested for much of the last few months. The group was thought to be completely unified. There was a supposed air of good feeling surrounding the club.
All is not right at Liverpool. The talented and expensive squad is in sixth place after eleven games. There have been plenty of positives to report, but the standings (table) don’t lie. If everything was rosy at Anfield, we would discuss the Reds’ title credentials rather than their chances for a top-four finish.
Players on championship teams have a singular, even obsessive, focus on achieving collective goals. Liverpool isn’t yet a title favorite, but it’s got a clear target: a top-four finish. Agger says the Reds need to improve as individuals if they hope to participate in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
“If we play like this, we won’t do it [qualify for the Champions League],” he said. “We have got to move up a level or two. I won’t say it is not possible, because it is, but it is up to the players. We are the only ones who can make a difference. We definitely have to do a lot better.”
Part of individual improvement comes by recognizing one’s shortcomings. Sometimes it takes a teammate or collegue to point them out. So don’t crucify the Danish stopper for airing a little bit of dirty laundry. He probably pointed fingers and said the same things behind closed doors. He may have even been repeating the manager’s words. Correcting this deficiency — the attitude of some players — could push the team to a higher level than it would have reached had Agger remained silent.
Photo via LiverpoolFC.tv