Losing one player can be so crucial...
DURING last season, my Peterborough United team rocketed up the League One table, producing championship-winning form, with Conor Washington and his goals playing a pivotal role.
Following his multi-million pound sale to QPR in January, our form slipped back.
In the end, the sale probably cost me my job as our win record dropped and I won just four of my last eight games.
Now there are always voices that will have you believe that one player ‘shouldn’t make that much difference’.
There can be substance to that argument and there are examples to quote; Spurs had lost Harry Kane until yesterday and have won four on the bounce without him in the starting eleven.
But the flip side of that can also be true. Liverpool have won 2.1 points per game in the Premier League with Sadio Mane this season and just 0.5 points per game without him. They have scored 2.3 goals per game with him; 1.3 per game without him.
My personal view is that certain players do and will always have a disproportionate effect on their team.
Conor Washington had blistering pace and sublime reading/timing when running in behind. He forced defenders onto the back foot and gave our midfield quartet of Chris Forrester, Jermaine Anderson, Jon Taylor and Erhun Oztumer the space in which to pass, rotate and drive holes into opposition defences.
Centre-halves pulled fullbacks in to protect channels, enabling Michael Smith and Callum Elder to exploit the wide areas. Without Conor, defences were more comfortable to play high, press our passing and stifle our movement.
At Spurs, Vincent Jansen is not converting chances like Kane, but he still plays up against defenders, links the game similarly and enables Son Heung-min, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen to continue to cause their problems from those inside pockets and score their goals whilst the fullbacks provide the width.
Looking at Liverpool, you see the Peterborough problem. The absence of genuine pace from their front line distorts the game that others need to play. Hence the team suffers from the loss of an individual because patterns change and fluency is disrupted. In the longer term, when a manager is building a squad, he has to recruit in such a way that no single player is indispensable. Any player can be injured and no club should be keyman dependant. It is easier said than done and it takes time. I’m sure Jurgen Klopp will be aware of the issue and will solve the problem.
INFLUENTIAL: Conor Washington, far right, celebrates scoring in his Peterborough days