Winning Ugly is a term that has been around the game of football forever.
In modern history, it is usually associated with tactics employed by the likes of Jose Mourinho or Sam Allardyce. Some clubs like West Brom and previously Stoke under Tony Pulis build their whole style of play on this abstract “footballing philosophy”
Its basically a style of play devoid of any real aesthetic appeal, but one that is pretty effective [at times].
Get-the-ball-into-the-net-how-ever-you-can-and-defend-with-your-lives is the foundation principle. A thump from the keeper up to a target man who flicks on or drops it for pacy, smaller players to run onto and score is the ideal a-z for managers who like this method of play.
Too often, the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal have been accused of “trying to walk the ball in”, “over complicating things” and “No Plan B” [which is Football code for not trying to win ugly as a backup plan].
But Sunday was different. Liverpool managed to win a game ‘playing badly’. There were a few times this season where they played brilliantly and lost. One case in point is the reverse fixture against Burnley, where Liverpool had over 80% possession, more shots on target and yet somehow Burnley still managed to come away with all 3 points. Some football philosophers would pull out the cliche line: “these things have a way of balancing themselves out over the course of a season” but the Reds can seldom be linked with cliches such has been the yo-yo like nature of form[except of course “Next season is our season”…that one’s for life]
Jurgen Klopp would ideally like to see his team consistently playing heavy metal football, but must be quietly satisfied with the drum and bass on display resulting in a scrappy equalizing goal for Liverpool [ball had hit a Burnley defender and fell nicely for Gini Wijnaldum to slot away].
A goal is a goal, as they say, especially to restore parity.
For much of the game Liverpool were terrible. From Defence to midfield to attack,There was zero fluidity, no real cohesion in the passing, attackers looked devoid of any ideas, just an all round mess…and then when Barnes slotted away having the freedom of the park [Where was Clyne ?] many were probably saying…”Not again”.
But at least there was a strong will to change things around. Emre Can, now playing in his favored position in the absence of Jordan Henderson, started to get forward more ultimately dragging his team mates forward too in the process. Sadio Mane was having one of the rare games where he doesn’t trouble the defenses all game, but at least he was trying. Phil Coutinho hasn’t been great coming back from injury, but he is too good to stay in this current run of form for much longer.
It was one of those “bad days at the office” that usually would result in defeat.
But that’s the difference. They didn’t.
When Emre Can maraudered forward and pushed the ball into space in what is typically known as “Gerrard territory” the Kop in unison shouted SHOOOOOOT!
And shoot, he did.
As the ball fizzed across the water slide-like surface and nestled into the corner of the net, supporters everywhere celebrated passionately, but probably breathed a huge sigh of relief. No one expected them to come back, especially the way they were playing… To some extent, even themselves. But that wasn’t not the end. A nervy final few minutes saw Burnley go into Pulis mode and lofted balls, missile throw-ins, every type of pulistic weapon was employed. Sean Dyche will have no qualms as it almost resulted in a late equalizer, and if not for Ragnar Klavan putting his man off with late shoulder barge in the last-minute which put his shot off, it might have been another case of “almost won”
But the whistle blew and everyone associated with the Reds were happy.
“3 points is 3 points” …”winning ugly but winning ” echoed across social media platforms.
Sometimes it doesn’t have to pretty, it just has to be pretty effective.
On to Manchester City now, and it probably will see a return to the stylish Reds that tend to show up at the Big Parties.
No need for Klopp to give any Pep talks in the buildup to this one.