RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Monday, September 16

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: LIVERPOOL FC

{Spirit Warriors & Failure Demons - the yin and yang of sporting metaphysics}

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology utilizing dork methodology of minutes played over the past 100 club competitive club matches to determine which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current trajectory. Then intuitive analysis is conducted utilizing football metaphysics, performed from an un-American soccer fan’s perspective. We do this every 1st and 15th of the month, cycling through the 20 clubs currently in the English Premier League, because it is the top domestic league based in an English-speaking country, which as un-American miscreants, we were all born to be saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA most prominently, where we live. And yet, it is really important we clarify we hate English, and also America. Maybe we hate ourselves. Our panel consists of chairman Raven Mack, director tecnico Paul Robertson, and director rudo Neil Bulson Our individual contributions to this 5000 words of gibberish will be noted by our name at the end of the blurb. If you enjoy this absolutely free internet content from an un-American soccer perspective, venmo us tips @ravenmack23. You may also enjoy the Sportsball 69 podcast.]

Before I speak upon the footballing metaphysics of Liverpool specifically, let me speak upon the footballing metaphysics philosophy in general. All three of us who write this (myself, Neil, Paul) are Americans, but likely kinda un-American in most eyes, despite all three being identified externally by our racial social constructs as white boys, and as such we grew up with futbol americano as our preferred sport. Both Paul and I grew up under the TV signal of the Washington football team with the racist nickname, and Neil was doomed to Lions fandom in the nether lands of Michigan. As such, all three of us were doomed (much like America itself). The Washington football team was a great success in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, but was purchased by a megalomaniac idiot, with greater wealth and thus access to far superior health care, so will likely outlive me easily, so there really was no point in me continuing to be emotionally invested in American football. I don’t know Paul’s full story of breaking away, and Neil’s is constantly documented online, including in shared websites of the past, so he’s just hopelessly fucked for some reason.

The American way of football is very American, where you are encouraged to and respect those that run themselves brain first into doom. The neurological effects of American football are about as destructive as American foreign policy in the Global South, but the American football fan is trained to respect the willingness to destroy one’s self as sign of great footballer. But ultimately the sport at the NFL level is a corporate entity and it is exploiting you. Sure, NFL athletes get paid great sums of money, but it’s not guaranteed money when they sign those contracts, they’re later in life health care is largely uncovered by these contracts, and their actual salaries combined are a small percentage of NFL revenue. So they are exploited. And to some extent, anybody who is great a sport knows they’re fucked and doomed and being exploited by the owners of their body, whether American football or world football or basketball or whatever sport in any corner of the world is actually making bank.

That is where the concept of the spirit warrior comes in. The spirit warrior knows it’s all fucked up and we’re all doomed, but the spirit warrior somehow still seems to find great joy in participating in this pointless Sisyphean exercise. And the spirit warrior may not necessarily ensure titles and success, because often times the spirit warrior’s avant garde nature is not respected by the modern corporate types who own sporting institutions. There are always people with great talent who can win titles, but that does not make them spirit warriors. And as a fan - a pure and in love with your club fully and foolishly emotionally invested supporter - you will always take a spirit warrior over a proven talent. The spirit warrior is a joy to be around and emanates beauty, albeit a fucked up and ugly beauty oftentimes.

Here’s the rub - sometimes magic happens and spirit warriors become successful, and in fact, become successful in the face of more talented opposition. This is the Maradona/Messi Law. There is no doubt that Lionel Messi is perhaps the greatest football talent we’ve ever seen; but he is no spirit warrior, and in fact his lack of spirit warrior capabilities has become a failure demon that hovers over him in every international competition, heavier and heavier shadows cast as he gets older. On the flip side, any dork ass takes-themselves-too-serious soccer pundit has no respect for Diego Maradona, despite him having conquered any obstacle there is to conquer. He has proven himself greater than the originators of football in England, with the football gods having a hand in helping, and on the more metaphysical scale of all-time, he continues to show himself the true Argentine God of football as well, despite all his demons. I mean fuck man, Diego was tecnico directing a second-tier Mexican club last year, and had them dancing in the locker room and almost getting promoted through the notoriously corrupt Mexican football pyramid. True fucking spirit warrior.

How does all this relate to Liverpool, and their footballing metaphysics? Jurgen Klopp. Klopp is obviously a man that understands this transcendence, and the power of spirit warriors. In breaking down who would write about who, I had to pass up on two of my favorites - Mo Salah and Virgil van Dijk, both men whom I’d consider true and living spirit warriors. And it is no coincidence that Liverpool is a rare situation where multiple spirit warriors have landed in the same physical mortal space together, a situation that oftentimes blows up into conflict and chaos. (Remember when Maradona was managing Messi in the World Cup? That’s such an example.) And yet, it has not blown up for Liverpool. In fact, strangely when I (Raven, the one who does the dork math part of compiling these lists through how many minutes players have played in the past 100 club matches) was doing the math, Liverpool had a far smaller pool of players than most other Premier League club and definitely any of the other Big Six Clubs that they were utilizing on the field. Most of the larger clubs would alternate people out for continental matches, and actually had a small handful of guys who would only play in one or the other competition as they navigated multiple trophy chases. Not Klopp at Liverpool. He plays who the fuck he trusts, and he knows they are led by spirit warriors who shall help hold it all together with pure beauty of existence.

We only cover the Top 25 in each of these lists, but most clubs have an extensive list of people, with new names moving up and old names who were stalwarts of the club fading slowly. Liverpool has a pretty set field of less than two dozen guys who are the heart and soul of this club, and have carried it to this amazing place it is currently at. Who the fuck would’ve thought they’d be 5 points clear of Manchester City this early? That’s crazy. And yet here we are.

Here is the thing though about spirit warriors and the soulless number-crunching nature of modern football… it can’t last forever. Injuries happen, and that is usually the justification for a club to move a spirit warrior to another place. It’s hard to maintain this metaphysical pace. From the Champions League loss two seasons ago, to last year’s CL victory and the crazy run to second in the Premier League, to the potential for pulling the double this year… is that too much? It might be. But also it just might not. But what I can tell you is, even though I’m not a Liverpool supporter (Paul and I remain contrarians to the English, him being a Celtic supporter, and I have pledged lifelong allegiance to Swansea City despite now being separated from my wife of 20 years who has Welsh heritage which justified this ridiculous choice to me in the first place), there is no club I more enjoy watching. And it’s not because it’s winning football, but because it’s the beauty, and the passion, and that starts with Jurgen Klopp, but it also shoots through those aforementioned spirit warriors Salah and van Dijk, as well as a slew of other men on this club who are spirit warrior-esque as well. It is a period to enjoy as an un-American soccer fan enjoying the sport at metaphysical level, not consumptive level, and I will be sad when it ever comes to an end.

Nonetheless, here are the 25 men who comprise Liverpool’s Metaphysical Roster of prominence over the last 100 competitive club matches…

#1: VIRGIL VAN DIJK (up from #10 Liverpool was metaphysically ranked on 01-Oct-2018) – So I’m going to just jump right in here: Virgil is the greatest living avatar for the destruction of white-ass, western European, colonialist patriarchal dominationism. He is all the fears of the hashtag white genocide fascists made righteous flesh. He will tread on them, oh yes, he will tread on them so fucking hard. Let me break this down using my professiorial deconstruction mode. First, Virgil’s mother hails from Suriname, one of the most beautifully ethnic-racial demographic blenders in the world: indigenous Americans, enslaved Africans who escaped and fled into the dense foliage, large numbers of Indian subcontinent immigrants, Javanese, Chinese, Lebanese, Jews, and who can say what else? Perhaps Virgil himself can say with a sense of certainty what his ethnic heritage is, but I suspect that if he took one of those stupid as fuck [never, ever fucking do one, if you haven’t been fool enough already] ancestry dna tests, the power of his sheer HUMAN admixture would destroy the whole essentialist algorithmic dna-helix beast once and for all. Almost certainly, Virgil cares not one shit for any of that type of associational garbage, because he is VIRGIL—the post-hegemony tan-brown-beige-caramel lustrous Superman that skins the Aryan Superman alive and wears the milk-white hide for a loincloth. Second, he rejects the Western-ordained patriarchy, with that big “VIRGIL” emblazoned across his shoulders. His father is some smirking, baldy-assed European white dude, adding to the symbolic weight of the estrangement—and the fucker even claims, in keeping with the paternalistic modus operandi of the Man that HE is responsible for cultivating and inspiring Virgil’s greatness. Typical White Man bullshit. Seriously, at this point, I commit to never even using “van Dijk” to refer to Virgil again. All he needs is that one powerful name. Which leads to…..Third. What’s in a name? I teach a lot of Southern (U.S.) literature classes, and I invariably remind my students, when we’re reading some antebellum work and they’re curious why the enslaved people have names like “Cicero,” “Agamemnon,” and “Minerva”, that white plantation fuckheads got some shits and giggles out of endowing their supposedly lowly, intellectually-limited, and instinctually servile slaves with grandiose names drawn from the heights of Western antiquity. In essence, an exponentially sadistic variant of calling a tall dude “Tiny” or a short dude “Killer.” I do not know who named Virgil, nor the circumstances that led to that decision. Perhaps it’s a family name—likely from his mother’s side, handed down the generations and having its origins in the aforementioned whims of some whip-cracking European piece of shit. I’d like to think that, to be honest. Because this new Virgil, a new “divine poet” has come to wreck all that lost-to-history shithead held precious and dear. To pull back from these deep metaphysics for a bit, as a Celtic supporter of long affinity and deep passion, I have watched Virgil probably more than any other player I have yet wrote about in these screeds. He was joy itself to watch—composed, menacingly quiet in his intensity (a shout here, a growl there) and just POWER in form—speed, strength, will. He’d stride forward with the ball out of defense with the confidence that he owned the whole damn pitch. But he could fuck up sometimes, as I told a Liverpool supporting friend as they were about to sign him and he was having Lovren-inspired anxieties over the transfer; Virgil could get bored, and when he got bored, he maybe got lazy, or sometimes rash to liven things up. He got at least one absolutely asinine red card that I remember. Despite our understandably (I hate to admit it) low reputation in wider European competition, Celtic does build winners (when they move on to bigger clubs, sadly but predictably) because of the domestic DEMAND that they win every fucking game, and win them both comfortably and in attractive fashion (legit, I remember a match years ago where we won 4-2 and the entire team was raged upon by the fans, specifically a player that had SCORED TWO GOALS). In the right player, one with loads of talent like Virgil, it facilitates a sense of dominance that, for the most part, serves them well when they step up the footballing ladder. But he left at the right time, before it could (and this was a big worry in his case) turn into a kind of jaded narcissism that still probably lurks somewhere in his psyche and likely requies regular repression. In a sense, Virgil knows that he is a god-come-to-earth, but needs to keep that seed of doubt, an occasional small, non-match-losing fuck-up, to keep a spark of humility burning. My final Virgil assessment is one I find integral to an elite footballer, and one which will endear them to me forever: he’s a fucking goofball. For all his ability and physique (seriously, look at pictures of Virgil on vacation, I have never ever seen a more well-proportioned human form), he seems like a big geek off the football pitch. In his first or second season at Celtic, he came out for a trophy award ceremony wearing a damn go-pro camera strapped across his chest in a harness—and you could tell that all the scumfuck Scottish players were giving him good-natured grief for it, and you saw this sheepish side of Virgil, who was still going to get that footage with his new toy. His goal celebrations and congratulations of team mates were also kind of lovingly wack, if I remember correctly. [PAUL]

#2: MOHAMED SALAH (up from #4 last time) – Whew, this is gonna be a big one. It’s hard to say just how important Mo Salah is to Liverpool, but beyond that, he’s so important to Egypt, to an entire world who rarely get to see a dude of such grace and spirit, combining together to create the perfect Spirit Warrior. Too often, the big names are prima donnas, pretty boys, your Ronaldos and such. Or they are tempestuous, flitting from one club to the next and all the time holding the club almost hostage, like Neymar or Coutinho, always trying to climb the ladder to get themselves prime real estate. But once in a goddamn lifetime, maybe less, comes a dude like Mo Salah, who combines an otherworldly talent with an earthy presence, grounded in what he knows is real. This man, this Egyptian Pharaoh, came into our lives, plucked from Italy, and instantly started a fire in our hearts, and yes, I am slipping into “our” and “us” when discussing these things because I have been baptized by the Liverpool faithful. And Mohamed Salah is my prophet. He is a singular figure, both larger than life and down to earth at the same time, dancing proudly like a lion, yet still humble. This is a dude who only walks the earth once every thousand years or so. This is a man who has taken to Liverpool, has made them champions, and who has made himself a golden god, a hero worthy of all the worship we can give him, but he does not require that. He knows that he is not god, but a prophet, and he is speaking to anyone who has ears to hear, and he is still young, and the world feels full of impossible dreams because this man, this Egyptian Spirit Warrior, has the whole world in front of him, and he is the only man who knows what to do with it. He scores at will, the ball dancing like a marionette off of his feet, and it is this transcendent grace that carries him to glory both on the pitch and off, eyes fire sworn, heart too goddamn big to live without running like lava over anyone who gets in his way. His every movement is a poem, every goal scored a thunderous thing, a man who bewitches everyone, even the announcers who begin to break into hysterics, speaking in tongues, screaming his name like they just awoke primal in the Amazon or some shit. This is a man who makes other men lose themselves in their wildness. He is a man who makes other men scream and cry and shout in strange tongues because they know that this “civilization” they live in is just a trick, an illusion, and it is only when men like Mohamed Salah come around that they are reminded of what a person can be, of the primal Spirit Warrior within, calling them all to dance naked in the rain and fuck in the clouds. He is Mohamed Salah and he is my prophet. [NEIL]

#3: ANDREW ROBERTSON (up from #8 last time; also previously has ONE METAPHYSICAL STAR with Hull City on 01-Mar-2017) – Another boy what passed through the ranks of Celtic, although he was jettisoned at a young age after not cutting it at the developmental level. Andrew actually makes me doubt my ability as any kind of football assessor, and maybe proves that as much as we disparage professional scouting networks, a select few at least see things our dumbasses miss. I watched Robertson play regularly for Dundee United when Celtic regularly smacked them around in SPL matches, and even accounting for his age (like 19-20 at the time) there was nothing particularly eye-catching about him. Mediocre. His move to an EPL (at the time) club like Hull City was surprising to me, and I don’t think he particularly excelled there either (but again, not outright sucking again). Yet since moving to Liverpool, he seems to keep getting better and better. In fact, it’s pretty cool, as a Scotland supporter at international level, that the country has produced two of the best left backs in world football—Robertson and Kieran Tierney. I can’t recall if someone else wrote about this on here, but Left Back is the most difficult position for a club to fill. Sure, you can find any old left back, but by and large a genuine quality player for the position is hard as fuck to discover. I’m not sure if it’s a chicken and egg situation, but in my time watching football I think the amount of rage I’ve seen directed at any given left back is equal to the rest of the team combined (excluding the goalkeeper, maybe). It is not a forgiving position, anything less than near perfection is fodder for the supporters. And yet, something about Scotland and Celtic seems to be amendable to this position (and yung Greg Taylor, redeemed from the taint of Hun-hood, might be the next one coming through). Metaphysically, I’m of course drawn to Andrew because we share a surname and perhaps share some fractional amount of genetic connection, at least more so than the guy from Pennsylvania that lives across the street from me. I’m bummed that he didn’t ever make the first team at Celtic, so I could get a player jersey with “my” name on it. Recently, the Celtic store sucked me in with their last season’s jerseys on sale shit and I couldn’t resist buying this sweet pearlescent white tartan and green third strip with alternate old-school badge (you know, the one that they maybe wear in two unimportant matches that season) and it was equally cheap to get a name/number on that bama and I usually do because strips don’t seem right to me unless they got that on them (which isn’t to say I don’t have a couple of “blanks” in my closet), but this time they didn’t have any pre-made ones in the drop down menu for current players, so I was like “fuck it” and went ahead and did a customized “Robertson 19” (because 19 is my prime personal sacred number). And while it came in the mail, and looks sick as fuck, and it’s probably my favorite jersey in my closet right this minute—it don’t feel right. There’s some other Robertson kid in the Celtic youth reserves right now and I’m hoping he comes good just so I can get a legit strip that I feel 100% good about. [PAUL]

#4: SADIO MANE (down from #3 last time) – One of the highlights of summer football for me was watching the African Cup of Nations. I think it’s unparalleled in terms of non-World Cup competition for how stoked people get. Euro gets a lot of attention, but most all the top European players get to compete in their home continent. All the top stars of Africa are working elsewhere, so when AFCON happens, it’s a triumphant return to their native continent, to play in front of actual Africans. Usually the tournament happened in January/February, but the big European clubs were bitches about their expensive players leaving for international duty a whole month out the season, so I’m sure a few strategic bribes were passed along from UEFA to CAF, and they moved it to June/July. This all relates to Sadio Mane because one of the glorious things to watch at this most recent AFCON was his Senegalese Lions team, managed by Aliou Cisse, an actual black African from Senegal. African national team football remains sadly colonial in that there is this belief that the raw talent of the players must be taught and molded by European men, so that the majority of the squads in AFCON feature some grumbly ass German or French guy stalking the sidelines coaching. And in fact, the remnants of colonialism are obvious as it is very often a French or Dutch man coaching a former colony’s national team. So Cisse leading Senegal was wonderful to see, and Mane was the key up front, not sharing the stage with Mo Salah (whom crashed out shockingly early in AFCON with Egypt, who were hosting the event, but failed miserably, not even making it to the knockout). Mane led Senegal with 3 goals in the tournament, but the final against Algeria was a brutal affair, with Algeria scoring early (2nd fucking minute!) which allowed them to rest on their historically Algerian defensive style of pummeling people. Senegal could never get that flowing rhythm they depend on, and which Mane excels at, and they lost the final. But similarly, that’s an underrated aspect of what Klopp has built, and also why van Dijk is so important to the overall flow, is that rhythm of attack doesn’t just happen up front. There are ripples of movement that begin in the back, continued by middle, and once that front line strikes first, it just opens it up even more. Liverpool is so beautiful to watch because it’s not going to be Algeria and sit on a single goal and pummel you into a plodding loss from 1974 style football. They’ll just keep rippling the flow forward, which is why they’ve been so constantly barraging the goals on opponents. It’s beautiful. Klopp is playing Football Manager out there. [RAVEN]

#5: GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM (down from #2 last time) – Ol’ Georginio may not have been everything he was expected to be for Liverpool his entire time there since joining the Reds in July 2016 after his previous squad Newcastle United got relegated. But all of that means nothing because of glorious evening, last May, in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. Liverpool had dropped the first leg in Barcelona, 3-0, and it seemed an impossibly daunting task to overcome. There would be no second chance to make up for the previous season’s loss to Real Madrid in the final. Even as the second leg went to half in Anfield, they’d only managed a single Divock Origi goal, so were down 3-1 on aggregate, and how the fuck could you expect to hold off Messi and Suarez and company for the entire match? At halftime, Klopp subbed Wijnaldum in for Andy Robertson, and in his first 12 minutes on the pitch, Wijnaldum shocked Barcelona with a pair of goals, to draw the two clubs even on aggregate. Hope had been restored, and the home crowd was insane again. And once Divock Origi added his own brace in the 79th minute, destiny had been changed. The argument of spirit warriors vs. non-spirit warriors can’t be lost here either, as Messi again had a notable failure, against a team full of spirit warriors. And sometimes when that type of environment is created, strange sparks happen. Georginio Wijnaldum only got 5 goals all of last season, three over the course of the entire Premier League season, scattered across 35 appearances. But then he got those 2 goals in 12 minutes, against Barcelona, to help create an improbable result. Sometimes people aren’t full spirit warrior who are able to live their life on that level at all times. It’s exhausting. But people have the capability of absorbing that energy and having moments that remain the little sliver of their life when they were able to step into that role, albeit for a brief blast. No doubt when Wijnaldum is old and grey, were he to have the opportunity to reflect upon his life all at once with death standing at the door, that twelve minutes will still trigger the rushes of serotonin and dopamine and adrenalin that mark our greatest experiences. [RAVEN]

#6: ROBERTO FIRMINO (down from #1 last time; also the previous TWO METAPHYSICAL STARS for Liverpool) – Often overlooked in the glory of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino is every bit a world class magician, combining with Salah and Sadio Mane to create a three headed nuclear supernova of goal scoring and good times for the Liverpool faithful. Brazilians tend to run a little divaish, especially strikers and forwards. But where this will get you a Coutinho, there is also the rare Brazilian like Firmino who comes along and just goes to work and dazzles and makes babies with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane and then gets serenaded by a bunch of drunk Liverpool supporters who know him by one name: Bobby. Yes, he is our Bobby Firmino, and in that name you get a sense of his earthy connection with the people. It is nice, really, that Liverpool have gathered like minded dudes, guys like Salah and Bobby, who don’t have that jackass streak that you find so often with other top talents. Bobby Firmino is beloved by Liverpool, and it’s that sort of rare connection, that goes beyond the Euros and makes something that feels permanent, that feels like home. That is true of Mo Salah too, and Bobby Firmino is a dude who belongs to Liverpool, not just on a sheet of paper, but in the hearts and souls of everyone who sings his name. And that, bitches, is what prime Spirit Warrior energy is all about. [NEIL]

#7: TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (up from #9 last time) – Born and raised in Liverpool, young Trent is a damn good boy made good story, but there is some wild shit in his background. Like, did you know his grandma used to fuck Alex (Turd) Ferguson? Yeah, apparently, they used to fuck back in the day before she moved to America and started fucking Americans. This is some weird energy to be throwing out here. I mean, of all people, Alex Ferguson? Grandma, pls. But young Trent here overcame all that, became a chess prodigy, and, oh yeah, got pretty good at the football for the local club. And now he’s our dear boy, a young star who gets better every day, and somewhere an old lady is laughing about Alex (Turd) Ferguson’s tiny dick and watching her beautiful grandson dominate Turd’s old squad. It’s a fucked up world, especially with grandmas out fucking around, but in the end it usually turns out okay because a young dude like this comes along and starts playing chess and laughs at grandma’s old tales of dickery doo, and he grows up to be the right back for Liverpool F.C. [NEIL]

#8: ALISSON (up from #22 last time) – Much as I have mad-love for Mo Salah, Alisson is the reason Liverpool won the Champions League last season. He came in at the start of the season and righted a position that was absolutely fucked for Liverpool—like they had a straight up goalkeeping curse. I hate the sweeper-keeper concept, but I abide it in Alisson because despite his abilities with the ball at his feet, he seems to be an instinctual shot-stopper first and foremost—the distribution just seems to be a hella sweet bonus. Plus, it fucks up other clubs psychologically because they’ll still think it’s possible to get a total goalkeeping package like our dude here, and so they keep trying keeper after keeper, but never finding the rare balance that Alisson represents. I don’t know who is in charge of scouting for Liverpool, or if it’s some kind of Divine intervention, but they keep signing these dudes that physically and technically are as close to perfection as you could ever hope to get in any given position player. And none of them seem to have glaringly auspicious pedigrees. Alisson, along with Robertson, Virgil, and Salah came from, if not exactly nowhere, at least from unfancied clubs. Roma is fine (plus the distinction of being the one club in hyper-racist-ass, fascist-ass Italian football that I kinda abide). But not one of the top rich glamour clubs that wheel-and-deal players amongst themselves in a bid to assemble a GDP of a South American country team that will dominate for a season or two (not un-reminiscent of disgusting-ass US sportsball practices, now that I think about it). [PAUL]

#9: JORDAN HENDERSON (down from #6 last time) – Every team still needs that white guy, which in English football terms just means “English” but that’s also code speak for “uhh you know a normal English person not like an immigrant” Brexit talk. Let’s be real, a lot of supporters of all clubs are fucking racialists, so having that “English” guy as stalwart whose been with the club forever is always gonna be needed. And Henderson’s held that role well, appearing over 300 times for club, and wearing the captain’s armband. But he’s also been passed over of late by Klopp, his spot being given to other people perhaps more capable. Henderson also has taken some heat for (along with head asshole of the world Harry Kane) taking a pretty self-serving deal for competing for the national team. Much like Brexit, and the changing demographics of a nation, the real test will be how well he adjusts to this new role. Can he be part of a lesser role? Or will he throw a fit come January and get transferred to be the big new face at like Everton? I don’t know. I actually don’t care. Dudes named Jordan kinda freak me out tbh. [RAVEN]

#10: FABINHO – Fabinho has been very strong for the Reds as a defensive-minded midfielder, helping defeat opposing thrusts and triggering the counter. A basic football metaphysics foundational philosophy is a strong but attack-minded defensive midfielder is able to cover tons of the pitch, help grab possession, and when that possession is regained at his feet, launch beautiful lofting counter-thrusts immediately, thus not only stopping the opposition’s hopes but also killing their spirit. Fabinho’s been a monster in that role thus far this season, just furthering the squad’s overall depth of spirit warrior types at so many key positions. [RAVEN]

#11: JOEL MATIP (up from #13 last time) – I remember having a debate with a Liverpool-supporting friend [I’ve mentioned you this week twice Jude, damn] about how it seemed to me both Dejan Lovren and Matip were equally atrocious in central defense, and that Matip was maybe somehow even slightly worse, yet it was Lovren they seemed to fixate on as the primary problem. I am admittedly not watching as many Liverpool matches as a die-hard supporter, so they obviously were seeing some seeming intangible that I was missing, because Matip and Virgil seem to be dominating just fine. Although Virgil could perhaps make any given defender from USMNT look solid and capable as his partner, I don’t know. Maybe Lovren sucks so bad (at this level) that he can bring a solid player down. Perhaps I am prejudiced in my observations because I have this not-readily-explicable contempt for Schalke (from whence Matip came). Regardless, in keeping with our de-colonialist thread, props to Matip for disavowing allegiance to the Germany of his birth in favor of coming out for Cameroon. [PAUL]

#12: JAMES MILNER (down from #5 last time) – I remember when James Milner came over from Manchester City, and I remember it well because he was very vocal about being a starter for Liverpool, but he was caught in the ol’ talent shuffle and could have been a cancer, but James Milner said fuck it, became a sort of jack of all trades for Liverpool, and we wouldn’t be sitting here celebrating our Champions League good times if it wasn’t for his efforts. This is a dude who could have said fuck all y’all and demanded a transfer to some podunk club, but he didn’t, he stayed and he did everything from man the last line of defense quite literally to hold down the fort in the midfield for Liverpool. James Milner is a solid dude who probably deserves more than he gets, but he’ll always be overlooked for flashier dudes and better stories, but fuck all that, he’s a Red and he’ll go down as one of us. [NEIL]

#13: JOE GOMEZ (up from #14 last time) – I just finished re-watching Breaking Bad so I just wanna call Joe Gomez “Gomie” a bunch. So I will. Gomie began last season looking like him featuring with van Dijk had firmed up that suspect defensive line, but then Ben Mee mangled Gomie in December, and that fractured leg has continued to be an issue, though he has allegedly regained full fitness. For some reason, Joel Matip has decided to be better thus far this season, which has allowed Klopp to leave Gomie idling on the sideline a little longer, but let’s be honest – anybody’s gonna look more solid at center back next to Virgil. (I should start calling Virgil van Dijk just Virgil, like his shirt, to honor his desires to not honor his father.) I refuse to believe a Virgil/Gomie combo is not gonna obliterate people, but hey man, if Gomie’s getting over his broked leg still, or even if he’s not and Matip is holding his shit together currently, it’s gonna be a long haul through next May’s end of the Premier League, and June Champions League final, so let ol’ Matip haul the wagon for now, and Gomie can sit there and get stronger. But barring injury, there’s no fucking way it’s not Virgil/Gomie in the middle in front of Alisson come the end of the season. And if it’s not that line-up, that’s gonna be a chink in the armor. [RAVEN]

#14: DEJAN LOVREN (down from #7 last time) – Man, I wish this whole thing could just be a love letter from me to Liverpool, but sometimes, it doesn’t always go down so good, and such is the case with poor Dejan Lovren, who more than anyone symbolizes the defensive breakdowns that haunted Liverpool before Virgil showed up and fixed that shit. But there was always a question of whether Lovren was to blame or if it was just him being hung out to dry in shitty defensive formations. Most of the time, the dude just looked shell shocked, like he couldn’t handle the shit going on around him, which is weird given his Croatian roots. I mean, this is a dude who grew up in literal warlike conditions. But maybe that broke him in a way, I don’t know. His family fled Croatia when he was only 3 and spent seven years living in Germany, growing up in those prime years of 3-10 in another land, learning to speak a new language, which is brutal for a developing kid. I mean, you get those kids who go feral and live with wolves and they lose their capacity for speech because those years are so critical in linguistic development. Funny thing, though, it turns out Dejan’s parents didn’t have the right papers and they were kicked out of Germany and sent back to Croatia, where Dejan Lovren, now ten years old, had to try to learn his native language all over again. You take that sort of whiplash development and you can start to understand why he gets that terrified look in his eyes, that lost look like a soldier whose seen one too many of his boys die right beside him. I feel for Dejan Lovren. To be something, Croatian in his case, but to not really be that in your heart because you spent those critical years developing in Germany, is a fucked thing to have to deal with. But it does go a long way in explaining why Dejan Lovren is Dejan Lovren. [NEIL]

#15: NABY KEITA (up from #25 last time) – Keita, for non-denominational football metaphysicians, filled an important role in the creation of Liverpool as failsafe club to root for. He took the #8 from departed fuckwad Steven Gerrard and has cleansed it of the foul stank. The #8 it should be noted is the infinity symbol sideways, and the #8 on the field, ideally, should display that infinite philosophy, able to work box-to-box, go from defensive posture once possession is regained and trigger attack. The striking ability of the 10 cannot flourish with devastating crushage without a solid flowing 8. Keita is that 8, where Gerrard wasn’t, and I don’t know if Jurgen Klopp understands these things, or if they’re things beyond even understanding and you sort of just magically stumble into having them work this way, at universal level. Success is as much blind luck as it is skill, and blind luck involves a lot of unexplainable magic. Keita was injured at the end of last season, he has yet to regain full fitness, but is one of a number of guys just lurking in the shadows, waiting to get back onto the pitch. And this for a club that has not left a point on the table thus far in the Premier League season. [RAVEN]

#16: XHERDAN SHAQIRI (previously ranked #4 for Stoke City on 01-May-2018) – Wrote about Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri’s pro-Kosovar exploits in the World Cup for the Swiss team last time out, but in that combo, Shaqiri’s presence was unmistakable. He controlled the flow of the Swiss national team, and despite being a short stocky pitbull of a human being, he’s explosive on the dribble, and able to make magic happen. Klopp just now seems to be inserting Shaqiri more prominently into the lineup, and fuck man it almost seems unfair that a guy this amazing is an extra piece of support that front three. He’d be a scoring winger at most any other club in the Premier League (as he was at Stoke before coming to Anfield). Culturally, I’m always intrigued still by the Yugoslavian diaspora of players, and Shaqiri is the perfect example of why. Culturally, you have a kid who grew up in Switzerland, but his pops didn’t speak Swiss German so worked construction. His moms cleaned offices, which he and his siblings helped her with. Straight working class background (which is economic speak for broke fuckers), and he idolized Ronaldo. Our concepts of dominant/less dominant continents in terms of economics aren’t whole, because there’s swaths of Europe that are not European according to the stereotypes in our head. This dude is a global southerner, and he plays like it, and I’ll be honest, after the last World Cup, he became a favorite of mine. Liverpool, with Salah, Mane, and Shaqiri, is laden with Muslim scoring threats. Interestingly enough, Liverpool was the site of England’s first mosque, after Abdullah Quilliam’s conversion in the late 1800s. In fact, Quilliam (from a wealthy family) purchased three terrace buildings (with assistance from the Crown Prince of Afghanistan at the time), and opened the Liverpool Muslim Institute in 1889, three years before Liverpool Football Club came into existence. So the layers and sediments and spirit warrior attraction and accumulation here are perhaps deeper than the normal consumptive behaviors of modern football. Manchester City or United or Chelsea accumulate players, like a store room of talent. Somehow, in unexplainable ways, something different has happened in Liverpool, inshallah. [RAVEN]

#17: DIVOCK ORIGI (down from #14 last time) – No Liverpool fan will ever forget Divock Origi showing up out of nowhere to wreck Barcelona in that wild night that burned all of these dudes into our hearts and souls and made us all one big soppy family. And then, of course, he was the dude who put the final nail in Tottenham’s coffin as Liverpool took home the Champions League crown. It’s especially cool because for a while, it seemed like Origi was gonna wash out. He was always out on loan and it seemed inevitable that he would want to find a new start somewhere on the continent. But then there he was, pulled back into the fold at the last minute because we always knew we needed someone like him who could step up and deliver, and step up and deliver he did. And now, he’s a folk hero in Liverpool, caught up in the surge of love that has made Mo Salah and Bobby Firmino kings. I mean, this all looks very different, maybe even a little desperate if Divock Origi didn’t come through against Barcelona. But he did, and he did so emphatically and now all our days and nights are golden. That’s the big energy that can carry a team like a tidal wave to even greater glories. And we’re all here for it thanks to our man Divock Origi. [NEIL]

#18: LORIS KARIUS (down from #11 last time) – A agonizingly tough call as to whether Karius or Mignolet is the pinnacle of the steaming, festering shit-garbage-mountain that was Liverpool goalkeeping before Alisson’s arrival. To be honest, as much as I adore his German sex-phreak vibes, Klopp is probably responsible for much of the goalkeeping fuckery of those seasons—keeping with Karius through that Champions League run-in Karius Klown fest could maybe, kinda, be termed “unforgivable.” When a keeper goes over the edge psychologically, fucks-up multiple times in a given match, with another even more intense upcoming, you have to pull that shit—even if your second choice keeper picked up an injury in training, you best be putting in the U21 guy, Champions League final or not. You’ve got a better chance of yung dude pulling off the game of his life at a tender age, before stepping back into middling competence for the rest of his career (what up David Marshall), than you do of your mentally compromised first choice keeper not FUCKING UP TWICE AS HARD AS HE DID IN THE PREVIOUS MATCH. Anyway, it’s fixed now. Klopp is solid and Liverpool are a well-constructed powerhouse. But it was tight here, not getting this shit right almost could’ve made it not happen. Such are the vagaries on which world football turn. [PAUL]

#19: ALEX OXLADE-CHAMERLAIN (down from #16 last time) – Oxlade-Chamberlain as a youth was that rare triple sport English threat, being a quality player in the scrum of rugby, keeping the wickets of cricket, and as a footballer. He had prominent offers as a youth in all three, but settled on football. Growing up an Arsenal fan, perhaps his time with the Gunners was too intimidating, because he never seemed to be as great as they wanted him to be. Moving to Liverpool three seasons back, he mangled his knee in the Champions League semifinal against AS Roma. That left him expected to miss most of last season, though he did get on as a substitute for a match against Hudderfield Town in April. More fully fit, he’s been available this season so far, and it’s interesting to note how seamlessly Klopp seems to juggle injuries. Is it possible to wonder, to dream if Klopp can Sir Alex Ferguson this motherfucker? [RAVEN]

#20: DANIEL STURRIDGE (up from #23 last time) – There was a moment, half a decade back, when Daniel Sturridge ran with Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez and Phillipe Coutinho, with Brendan Rodgers managing the club, that we all thought the glories that we feel today were going to come true then. Of course, it turned out that we were wrong, and the entire thing had to be rebuilt. Take away Sturridge and Sterling, Suarez and Coutinho, swap in Bobby Firmino, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Divock Origi and maybe a Fabinho or Naby Keita. Turn out Brendan Rodgers and bring in Jurgen Klopp and holy shit, this was all gonna work out okay, we just needed the right dudes. It’s kinda crazy that Liverpool rebuilt so quickly without really changing philosophy. I mean, Klopp basically just took what Rodgers had done and ran with it. But the dudes were not quite right, and unfortunately for Daniel Sturridge, he got hurt and then when he came back, it was a whole new world. Raheem Sterling and Phillipe Coutinho weren’t waiting for him. They were gone. Instead, it was Bobby Firmino and Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, and he just never got back to where he was before. Still, he gave us some good times, usually off the bench, in the following years, and no one ever had a bad thing to say about Daniel Sturridge, who was our hope before hope turned into promise and glory. Liverpool sold him off to some Turkish club, which means that he is probably gonna crush a lot of golden skinned ass and score a lot of goals as a big stud in a smaller league. Don’t get me wrong, some of those Turkish matches can get rowdy as fuck, but all in all it’s on a little bit lower level than what Sturridge is used to running with. I hope he gets fat and happy down there. I hope he makes a bunch of Muslim babies. I have nothing but love for Daniel Sturridge. [NEIL]

#21: ADRIAN (previously ranked #16 for West Ham United on 01-Mar-2019) – Not exactly sure why this dude made the list. Seems like a solid goalkeeper getting a bump up to the big time relatively late (but still at the peak) of his career. On the one hand, I’m down with a dude that once laid the hammer on James Vardy. I’d love to see more shitty-ass English-as-fuck center forwards taking cleats to the face from goalkeepers. On the other hand, he looks like a store-brand version of de Gea and that’s boring. Wishing Klopp would just say “fuck it” since he’s got a sold back four and put that yung Gaelic-Irish keeper in—I really can’t imagine he’d be any less competent than this guy and the intangibles of looking forward like that would be pretty sweet. Plus, a commitment to Irish/Gaelic/Celtic-ness would kinda win the war for the soul of Liverpool—a club that sits finely balanced between the holy righteousness of Celtic-dom and the abject heinousness of Rangers Hun-fuckery. Kenny Dalglish, worthy king of two clubs; Graeme Souness, cop-mustached NASCAR-driver-looking king wanker; Virgil/Robertson; Stevie G’s English Hardman couldn’t manage a TCBY dumb ass; “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in unison [ours is better Jude, ours is better]; the shitty longstanding English pub hereabouts that is owned by Liverpool-mad expats, but who once did an ad campaign mocking Irish Catholics during the Troubles and who festoon their establishment with more Butcher’s Aprons than a Dr. Who/Downtown Abby/Harry Potter/The Beatles convention. Amongst the EPL shittery, Liverpool is the closest I have to a team—but the balance is fraught, ever so fraught. [PAUL]

#22: ADAM LALLANA (down from #21 last time) – Adam Lallana is what you might call a luxury. He is good enough to be a top of the line player for just about any club, and the star dude for any number of lesser clubs. But he has found a home as a reserve at Liverpool and there’s nothing wrong with that. He is a solid enough dude who does a decent enough job when he’s called upon and sometimes it’s not any more complicated than that. He’s also a fashion model for some French outfit, which is not really important or anything, but it’s nice to know that our dudes probably fuck on the regular. [NEIL]

#23: ALBERTO MORENO (down from #18 last time) – No one dude represents the failed empire of Brendan Rodgers more than Alberto Moreno to me. It’s not just Rodgers, it’s the early days of Klopp too, when the Liverpool defense was little more than a couple of cans strung together to trip up poor Alberto here who was tasked with holding down the left side of the defense. The problem was, of course, that young Alberto liked to live it up a little too much and get involved in the offense only to see himself get burned on the other end time and time again. It’s a memory that is permanently seared into my brain, the sight of him failing to get back again and again and again while the world burns, this little Spanish prick who never found his footing here. But Alberto is back in Spain now, with Villareal, that Castellon town in the east of Spain. It is a city of oranges and ceramic tiles, speaking perhaps to its forgotten days as part of a larger Moorish empire, and it is here that Alberto Moreno has finally found a home, and I wish him the best, but I also wish that he had never shown up here on our doorstep. [NEIL]

#24: EMRE CAN (down from #12 last time) – After Real Madrid submitted Liverpool in the 2018 CL final, Emre Can, a budding young full of shit, decided he wanted to go elsewhere, where he could win hardware like that. Liverpool let his contract expire, which suggests – when you are a highly-touted guy in your early 20s – that there were issues there that maybe weren’t made entirely public. Can bolted to Juventus, joining Cristiano Ronaldo as part of an incoming class of players that were going to help the Italian club become continental champions again. Fast forward to two weeks ago, when clubs announced their Champions League group stage squads, and Juventus left Can off of theirs. So now Emre Can is full of himself again, complaining about being held back, and wishes they had let him go to Paris Saint-Germain, who apparently want him. This is a case of an asshole player working his way through the most asshole clubs he can. I’m not sure where he can land after Paris Saint-Germain, as there’s not really anything more overrated and ugh-worthy than that. I guess he’ll come back to England for Manchester United. [RAVEN]

#25: SIMON MIGNOLET (down from #15 last time) – Many experts, both in the media and around barstools, have suggested the real difference between Liverpool coming up short in the Champions League final two seasons back and winning last season – aside from Mo Salah getting piledrived into injury – was Simon Mignolet being replace by Alisson. Mignolet wasn’t necessarily a bad GK, but the defensive line they had at that time combined with Mignolet’s ability to have strange lapses all combined into his ass got replaced. Last season, he only played in domestic cup appearances for the Reds, and that justified him sliding back home to his native Belgium to play for Club Brugge. [RAVEN]

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