I have a lot of questions. The first is: are pre-season matches a reliable indication of future performance? Had I the entire morning I could do this properly I suppose, and compare summer club friendly records to their subsequent table performance. But I’m willing to bet there likely isn’t much of a serious correlation. I could be wrong though.
I ask this question because there seems to be some panic over Manchester United’s pre-season tour in Australasia. It hasn’t exactly gone well, with three defeats and a last-gasp draw in the last four matches.
The context here is obviously David Moyes. Because it isn’t the losses alone that are drawing attention, but the failure of United to convert chances, and their concession of early leads. Manchester United followers will of course remember this was a feature of their early 2012-13 Premier League season, and United was able often to equalize. But no doubt some will already draw conclusions about the Evertonization of United. Not everyone is that panicky though.
The other question I have is: do players have to be motivated in order to play at their best?
It sounds obvious. Of course they bloody well do! But it depends on what we mean by ‘motivation’ exactly. Here’s why I bring it up: Tor-Kristian Karslen believes Liverpool could be in trouble over the unresolved Luis Suarez sitch:
Even on the best of days, the volatile Suárez needs careful handling. Not only do Liverpool need to keep their main man perfectly motivated to perform to his maximum but also in a fairly balanced mindset to prevent him from succumbing to his dark side once again (a relapse to old antics will see his market value dropping even more). Despite three years left on his contract, an agitated, want-away Luis Suárez is the very last thing Brendan Rodgers needs around the training ground at Melwood.
That’s why Suárez’s history, character and persona arguably makes him a different case to previous instances in which high-profile players have publicly fought their clubs over career choices. The tempestuous Uruguayan is less likely to knuckle down harmoniously than, say, the placid Modric – a fact of which Liverpool are uncomfortably aware.
This is a fairly major empirical leap to make. Karlsen is essentially saying that Suarez must be sold or he a) won’t play to the best of his ability and b) will potentially bite more people and use more racial epithets than ever before.
I’m perfectly willing to believe Suarez might be that self-destructive, but isn’t equally possible that despite his chequered past, Suarez might be a professional, able to play to the best of his ability despite the failure of his agent to orchestrate a decent move. And even if you find that naive, isn’t it also likely that Suarez might not want to jeopardize a potential move next season by acting like even more of a prat because he didn’t get his way this summer?
As much as this all seems like a soap opera sometimes, it’s us who do all the projecting. But we really have no idea what’s going on in Suarez’s head.