Thursday, February 05, 2009

Life: In It To Win It – Not Just To Avoid Defeat

I don’t know what it is with me recently but I’m finding that my writing groove can pop up late at night. It’s almost 1am as I start writing this and I’m sure I’ll cat at least the beginning of Criminal Intent when it starts at 1am. Here I am though having had me late night meal and settling with Robinson’s Summer Fruits diluted by Sainsbury’s cheap Ginger Beer.

I’ve just watched the highlights of the FA Cup replays that have happened this week especially tonight’s games. Wonderful comeback from Derby County and I hope Nigel Clough is given time to turn that club around. Congratulations on Aston Villa winning as well, I really hope they go far.

Liverpool losing a game isn’t actually that regular a feat. For all the griping that I’ve had about the brother and all the draws we’ve had we haven’t actually lost a match for quite some time in fact since we
lost against Tottenham back in November. That’s 16 games undefeated which is nothing to easily dismiss. Neither is the number of draws in that run, but that’s beside the point. We actually haven’t lost a game in a while. So to lose is actually disappointing.

Check me, though. I wasn’t gutted. I wasn’t despondent. Most importantly I wasn’t surprised. This will get to the heart of what I’m getting at in this issue. It’s one thing to be hard to beat; it’s another thing completely to be feared because of the ability to win games.

Teams against Manchester United are afraid of getting beaten badly and so put up salvage jobs. Teams against Arsenal used to in the same way be afraid of being trounced and so put up virtual 10 man defences. Mourinho’s Chelsea at its peak with Robben and Duff as well as Drogba and Lampard also frightened the pants off of teams aware that they would grind them down. Be that as it may, for the impressive record Liverpool has this season and the wiles of Rafael Benitez, few are the teams that dread facing them. indeed none of the teams in the Premier League fear us. This is because we start from a position of being hard to beat because we don’t want to lose.

It is a similar case to the source of how Blackburn has remained unbeaten since Sam Allardyce took over. That’s the reason why he should have been manager from the start of the season when Hughes went to Man City. Allardyce will not give you glittering, quick passing, mass-scoring football, but he starts from the position of building a team that is hard to beat because they first of all don’t want to lose. That was at the heart of his success at Bolton. The only reason he failed at Newcastle was because applying those principles at a place like Newcastle with what’s expected of their teams and especially some of the team selections and formations made it hard to stomach. Now I can appreciate the fans not necessarily going for him because of that. Yet it didn’t make him a bad manager and his time at Blackburn should prove that.

That basis though – hard to beat because we don’t want to lose – is not the basis on which leagues are won. Chelsea was hard to beat not just because they didn’t want to lose but because Mourinho developed a system that kept them solid with creative outlets to set them on their winning ways. This was not just expressed through Robben and Duff but through releasing Lampard to blossom into the free-scoring midfielder that he is. Similarly Manchester United have prided themselves on a tradition of good attacking football which has been pushed through McClair, Hughes, Sharpe, Scholes, Beckham, Cantona, Cole, Sherringham, Solskjaer, Yorke, Van Nistelrooy, Rooney, Ronaldo and one of the most consistent proponents of attacking football over his tenure the much admired Ryan Giggs. Their defensive records haven’t been that shabby but up until their recent record breaking run it wasn’t the highlight of a Man United side. So their ethos was always going out to win first. That’s why the last ten winners of the top trophy have more often than not been the best attacking sides in the League. The blip in this pattern in the Premier League years was Blackburn Rovers, but even they had Shearer, Sutton, Wilcox and Ripley which not a shabby attacking force.

This is all that to highlight a genuine philosophy in life; succeeding not beginning with avoiding losing. To succeed is to begin with the intent on winning and building the basis on which to win. Being hard to beat and having strong defences may assure you of safety and sustenance to an extent, but it will not win you the major trophies in life.

Liverpool will find this out when it comes to winning the top prize you have to go out to win with every game. I look at the side’s set-up and it’s not that way built at all – our attacking outlets are Gerrard and Torres. Rieira or Babel provides width and Kuyt works hard on the other flank but the main approach play is fairly one-dimensional and predictable. Shut that down and you’re at least preventing the team having goal-scoring opportunities. You may not score yourselves, unless it’s from a set-piece, but you won’t fear an onslaught of a particularly offensive team.

To win in life go out with your best attacking plays and creative outlets. Sure, have a strong defence but like all successful teams only use that as a platform on which all the attacking prowess is on display and able to attack through various avenues never being stifled in one outlet but causing a threat through a number of plays. You’ll notice that it’s when you try to save your life – avoid defeat – that’s when you lose it. When you lose yourself though – that’s when you gain everything. Life is not about avoiding defeat – it’s about giving your best even if it costs you so that you can gain all the more.

For His Name’s Sake

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