I recently moved to a new house. The issue with moving to a new house is that nobody tells you the number of things you have to do. They also do not tell you all the things that may go wrong. One of those things that went wrong was the lack of internet in the house. I, therefore, could not post any articles. However, I did have a TV, and on this TV, I have been able to watch the mini-crisis at Liverpool Football Club.
Before this article, Liverpool had lost seven of their last ten games in the league, including their last five home games. Liverpool’s story this season is an all too familiar one. It is the story of a team or an athlete who reaches the mountain top but, unfortunately, cannot sustain the level that allowed them to become champions. Liverpool had been so dominant last season that many had expected them to dominate for years to come.
Of course, context matters. Liverpool has suffered multiple injuries to top players this season. That does not excuse the fact that they have not played well enough. So, what changed?
The United States female football legend Mia Hamm once said, ‘It is more difficult to stay on top than to get there.’ That could be what has happened to Liverpool. When you are a member of the chasing pack, there is little to no pressure on you. Liverpool last season had set a target of chasing Manchester City. However, this season everybody wants to beat them, which has increased the amount of pressure.
However, it cannot be as simple as that. We have seen great athletes like Lebron James, Tiger Woods, and Serena Williams, along with great teams like the New England Patriots and the Pep Guardiola-led Barcelona team, gets to the top and stay there for an extended period. So, why can’t everybody else do the same?
Didier Deschamp, the Head Coach of the France football team, helped to explain why. He said, ‘even if we manage to stay focused, we may not get the same results as next time, they may prepare even better.’ Deschamp is saying that while France can control their preparation, it cannot control its competitors. France is currently the champion of the world, but they know it will be hard to repeat.
Deschamp’s quote could help to explain Liverpool’s recent form. Before the start of the season, Liverpool had improved their squad. They had bought two top-class players in Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota, but other teams around them also got better. Teams like Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Leicester City, West Ham, and a few others all improved. All of these teams prepared better this season to challenge Liverpool.
Still, that explanation is helpful when talking about teams. What about individuals? What separates the greats of individual sports from their counterparts because it cannot be pure talent alone. From what I have seen, a lot of people can become the best. It seems to be merely a time effort as you only need to do it once. There are so many examples of people getting to the mountain top, only to decline just as fast.
Staying at the top is a different case. A lot of people become overwhelmed with the spotlight of being the best. They get thrust into overnight “superstardom’. This fame will affect many, but the few that it does not affect are the true all-time greats. Those that are not affected share a few traits that keep them at the top. They all seem to maintain this incredible work ethic as they are constantly searching for improvement; they are always relaxed, especially when things are not going their way and if they lose, they have a way of pushing themselves to another level.
Listen, there are so many factors that can affect your ability to stay at the top. A lot of these factors are beyond your control. It is also very different in individual sports where you rely on yourself, but, in team sports, you have to rely on a lot of people to do their jobs.
When next season starts, I expect Liverpool to be back near the top again. However, they are a reminder that it is tough at the top. It is also a reminder that making long-term predictions in sports is very risky. It is also another opportunity to appreciate those that have sustained long-term success because as we are seeing now, it is hard to do.