May 10, 2019

Horse 2541 - When To Write Off Liverpool's Season

One of the infrequently annual pieces in this blog and the two homes which it previously occupied, was me lamenting having to write off yet another league season. Liverpool last won the league title back in 1990; which means that it is not beyond the realms of mathematical impossibility for me to have been a grandfather in that time frame.
The last time that Liverpool last won the league title, Lord Sugar, Rupert Murdoch, et al. hadn't yet met to organise the Premier League. Margaret Thatcher was still the Prime Minister. Everyone still thought that Compact Discs were pretty neat things. Eternal September¹ wasn't yet a thing and the internet as we know it didn't exist, much less streaming services. Liverpool was still banned from European football after what had happened at Heysel in 1985. People thought that Jimmy Saville was just a leery and creepy old man, and people thought that Steve Wright was actually funny. It is a world which is now hard to understand. It is as if the past is an entirely different country.

The reason for my timing for when to write off a league season has been identical. Since there is a very hard barrier of 10 points from which if a team falls behind, it is virtually impossible to claw back, then that is the date of that season's existential despair. This season though, 2018/19, that simply hasn't happened and now I find myself with the rather nasty possibility that Liverpool could in theory win the league title on the very last day but the chances of that are so exceptionally remote that any hope is virtually false. I think that I would have preferred to have all hope dashed several months ago, than still be left hanging by a thread.

As it currently stands, everyone has played 37 games with one gane remaining.  Manchester City is on 95 points and Liverpool is on 94 points. Manchester City travel to the Falmer Stadium to play Brighton & Hove Albion; while Liverpool are hosting Wolverhampton at Anfield. For Brighton & Hove Albion this is a dead rubber as even if they were to lose 100-nil and Cardiff City won by an equally absurb amount, they are still safe in 17th. Likewise, Wolverhampton is also effectively playing a dead rubber because they will finish 7th regardless.

The mathemagic is this:
If Liverpool lose, then Man City wins the league. (94 - 95+)
If Liverpool draw, then Man City wins the league. (95 - 95+)
If Man City win, then Man City wins the league. (97 - 98 at best)
If Man City draw or lose, and Liverpool wins, then Liverpool wins the league. (97 - 96 or 95)

The problem with all of this mathemagic and playing with abacuses, is that Manchester City is playing Brighton & Hove Albion on the last day of the league. Expecting Brighton & Hove Albion to put up any resistance at all, is the height of stupidity. Satan has a higher chance of scoring a goal in the Stanley Cup Final which has been moved to the Gehenna and Hades Ice Arena. There is a greater chance of Porcine Airways flight number BKN33 landing at Heathrow after a 12 hour long haul flight from Ham Island. I think that there's a greater chance that President Donald Trump will refer himself to the House Committe bee for his own impeachment, than there is of Brighton & Hove Albion scoring one point against Manchester City, let alone all three. Unless there is a unanimous strike of gastro or some equally widespread and equally infuriating disease upon each and every Manchester City player, this will be a walk in the park for an equally infuriatingly deserved champions-elect, to make this a mere formality.
In any other season, scoring more than 90 points would probably win you a league title. I think that this year's point tally will be a record haul for Liverpool but even then, it is simply not good enough. The thing is, that that is utterly insane. The only club which Liverpool as actually lost to in 37 fixtures, is Manchester City. They have played out 7 draws to Man City's 2 but the rewards for winning outweigh the penalty for losing; which is in my opinion just and fair. Manchester City have the extraordinary record of winning 31 times this year. Not even Arsenal in their insane undefeated season in 2003-04 was this good and they won only 26 times. Liverpool have already won 29 times and are still not top of the league.

One of the things that I quite enjoy about the internet when it comes to people's alliances surrounding football teams, is that there will be sets of rival fans off in the ethersphere, taunting each other. That would normally mean that I should expect to receive all kinds of delicious invective but the lack of a league title has happened for so long that any and all taunting is almost redundant. It's actually kind of strangely hillarious being a Liverpool fan. There is a weird combination of complete delusion that this season will be the one and it never is. It kind of can't anymore either because of money from Saudi, Qatari, Abu Dhabi and Russian oil.
Being a Liverpool fan is a lot like being an England fan. England won the World Cup in the days of Black And White television and have won diddly-squat since. Being an England fan is to expect perpetual failure. Being a Liverpool fan is almost to expect perpetual failure but this is tempered with the occasional piece of mostly pointless bit of silverware.

This is why I was rather confused when Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 to win 4-3 on aggregate in the European Champions' League Semi-final². In my estimation, the European Champions' League is only the third most important bit of silverware in the season. I will get up early in the morning to watch the Liverpool-Tottenham final but it still will not be a league title. Having said that, if Liverpool win the Champions' League, I will not be complaining about that at all. Silverware is still silverware and crowing about it has really only ever been the only point of football in general; which after all is said and done is just 22 players with numbers on their backs, kicking balls around. Sport is an inherently frivolous pursuit and any meaning that it has only exists because we choose to give it any.

However, should the impossible happen and Manchester City implode, Brighton & Hove Albion win 1-0, and Liverpool win their match and the league title to boot, there will be so much joy that ANSTO will have to declare my house a national place of interest. Should the incredibly London-to-a-Brick likely probability happen, then the season will be written off instantly. When Manchester City score that first goal, that's when I am writing off the season. My bet is at about 38 minutes into the match; which is just 52 minutes before the season ends; which is still not even close to the very last moment that I wrote off a season³.

I am afraid that Emily Dickinson was in fact wrong when she wrote:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words.
And never stops - at all.

Hope does stop. Hope stops when a club goes ten points down, or when the maths simply makes it impossible to survive. There are only so many feathers that you can pluck off before the tune without the words stops.

¹Today is 9383rd September 1993. 
²despite what the media say, this is not the greatest comeback in football history. That honour goes to AFC Wimbledon when on 21 May 2011, Seb Brown saved two penalties against Luten Town to send AFC Wimbledon to the League.
³which remains just 38 seconds before the season ended on 26 May 1989.

No comments: