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.

Wednesday, July 15

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: LIVERPOOL FC

{the Salah header that sealed the Premier League title} 

[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 FOR OUR METAPHYSICAL LABOR @ravenmack23.]

The Jurgen Klopp era at Liverpool has to be loved, as he was able to put the club at such a huge lead before a global pandemic shut down the Premier League, that it helped force the FA to actually finish the season rather than abandon it, so that Reds supporters could finally call themselves "Premier League champions". It was their 19th top flight title, but the first since three seasons before the Premier League was created, all the way back in 1990, which was the end of a run where they won the top flight 11 out of 18 seasons from 1972 through 1990. I don't think anybody expected them to go this long without, and there's a shitload of Liverpool fans in their fortysomethings across this Earth who had been waiting a long goddamned time for Jurgen Klopp to come along and assemble a magical squad like this. However, they did suffer an unexpected early in the Champions League to Atletico Madrid, so perhaps it's not a complete joy of a season? I don't know. The real test for Liverpool in the near future is now that they have achieved optimum level under Klopp, can it be maintained? A manager can build a squad up, but keeping at that level is the next level of management. That's what separates the Pep Guardiolas from that level of Sir Alex Ferguson, and fuck it I'll even say Arsene Wenger. Liverpool club legend Bob Paisley went from a player to manager and led them to six titles in that run I mentioned earlier, and added three European Cups (what the Champions League was called back then). Rafa Benitez was able to manage the Reds to a Champions League title back in 2005, but the fact Klopp has gotten both a Premier League title and a Champions League title (with the World Club Cup to boot) probably makes him second only to Paisley in club lore (although Bill Shankly did win more trophies just before Paisley took the helm). What happens here depends on how well Klopp can manage the egos of superstars, which luckily, he has a remarkably humble cast of stars. And also as the older talent cycles off in exchange for large transfer fees and youngsters have to be brought in to replace, or key recruited megastars brought in with younger legs… it all becomes a completely different type of managerial feat. It will be interesting to see if Klopp remains interested in chasing this, or he takes off for a break, before trying a rebuild to glory at some other major European club in the future. Nonetheless, here are the 25 men who have occupied the most metaphysical weight over the course of the last 100 competitive matches under Klopp as this here reglorified Liverpool football club. [RAVEN]

#1: VIRGIL VAN DIJK (same as last time Liverpool was metaphysically ranked on 15-Sep-2019; also his SECOND METAPHYSICAL STAR in a row for the club) – A few years back when Liverpool and Virgil were starting to talk, I remember Paul telling Jude and I, Jude being a fellow Liverpool fan and friend, that we would love Virgil. I recall that both Jude and I were excited yet wary because up until then Liverpool’s defense had been a tragedy, with poor Dejan Lovren losing his fucking mind every now and then and Matip not handling his shit well and Mamadou Sakho trying but not being able to overcome Jurgen Klopp’s tendency to leave his defenders on an island that often became Danger Island with volcanos erupting and natives shooting blow darts at everyone while a fucking anaconda choked your life away. It felt like no matter who we put back there it just ended up a disaster waiting to happen, maybe Ragnar Klavan slips on a banana peel or something, you know? So we were wary with ptsd symptoms abounding. And then Virgil showed up and fixed everything. It was almost immediate, flipping a switch between Danger Island and Safety Town and while for a few beats it was hard to believe, it quickly sunk in that it was very, very real and that Paul was very, very fucking right about Virgil. Since then, Liverpool’s entire squad has been able to make art with their feet because Virgil is there to make everything safe and good. The only issue is keeping him from getting bored if the peons aren’t up to his standards, but that is a trifling critique. But it’s not just that Virgil is the Answer to Klopp’s defensive issues, it’s that he represents that perfect New European profile with ambiguous roots, the result of people fucking people regardless of the color of their skin or where they came from until everyone is just pretty and all mixed up and nobody can hate on anybody because we’re all just beautiful people. Also, when he was first coming up, he had a side job washing dishes, which is Real People work, and that sort of thing makes for Spirit Warrior energy, a nice nucleus of that shit just waiting to burst forth on the world. And that is what Virgil has done. He is Liverpool’s ace defender and the key piece that makes the whole thing able to go, and he does it with style and grace and a sort of nonchalant attitude that speaks to his inner Lounge, just a dude who is gonna hold the line and then get high with you after the game. Maybe some girls swing by and Virgil smiles and the night begins. [NEIL]

#2: ANDREW ROBERTSON (up one from #3 last time; also previously ONE METAPHYSICAL STAR with Hull City) – My method of writing blurbs is scattershot, so that I have already written most all my other Liverpool blurbs, and in fact have written blurbs for players on future metaphysics posts that won’t happen for a while, and in fact I have written blurbs on futuristic players who don’t actually exist as of yet, on clubs in a post-Apocalyptic American landscape that has seen the twin continents of the America’s become a mosaic of autonomous and semi-autonomous zones flourishing with the traditional nation-state capitals still retaining a small base of control in their general vicinity. These blurbs excite me to no end, because the tri-racial isolate strikers found in the southern portion of Greater Appalachia (which has seven clubs in the post-Apocalyptic Combined Americas footballing pyramid, which is not really a pyramid so much as a sweat lodge) are really incomparable in the northern America, although of course the cramped cities where humanity has grown off the edges of the Amazon still produces amazing strikers as well in this futuristic time. I am not sure why I’ve been so unmotivated to write about Andrew Robertson, especially considering he is a Scotsman who shares the legit surname of one of the metaphysics scientist-poets on our crew. But I have been. I think it’s because he is unglamorously solid, meaning a defender with little striking potential. He’s not going to suddenly be helping on a counter attack, not even really a threat as bastardized offensive genius with his head during set plays, standing only 5’10”. Even as a defender, he’s back there with the very glamorous Virgil van Dijk, tucked off to the left, but competently enough occupying that space. I mean I guess. Liverpool’s defense had been a joke at one point, but generally speaking it Dejan Lovren or Joel Matip who were the butt of that joke. So Robertson has just been plugging along, somehow anonymously, despite being ever present the past three seasons, first behind Alberto Moreno when Robertson first arrived from Queen’s Park Rangers after they were relegated. But Moreno’s injury that season allowed Robertson to step in and emerge as their regular left back ever since. And with the pending collapse of western civilization, at least in these United States, and the thinning of the economic herd happening under planned mismanagement of the Covid pandemic here, I am hopeful that somehow Paul’s esoteric rituals allow the futuristic blurbs I’ve written to come true, about Andrew Robertson relocating to the Roanoke Valley to manage that region’s club on a hot run of seasons from the fourth tier to the second tier of future America’s football lodge structure, led by a young striker named Molecules, which is pronounced with four syllables, like “Muh-lek-ku-leez” so that it sounds like Hercules, who tries and actually manages to score 69th minute goals in 19 of 43 appearances nine years from now. [RAVEN]

#3: MOHAMED SALAH (down one from #2 last time) – Mo Salah is such an absolute treasure, and I’ve always thunk of him in the context of comparison to Luis Suarez, who roamed as the epic goal threat at Anfield before Salah. Different geographical backgrounds have created different aesthetics, and South America can be very rough and tumble and metaphorically cut throat. There is a strong alpha aspect to it. Africa itself is not even a whole entity, because Black Africa and Arab Africa are two whole different vibes, but Arab Africa also has tended towards a tough style of play, often defensive. Your more well-known strikers from the African continent have tended to be from the Black African culture. So Salah’s ascent to international stardom has been beloved by the Arab nations. The fact Salah is a devout Muslim, in more ways than just the fact, makes it all the more enjoyable. He is an organic being, having come from Egyptian roots as a youth and professional player, not extracted early off to European super club youth academies. And even the fact he was contracted to Chelsea for a few years, but never really latched on is even more testament to his metaphysical character. A spirit warrior like Salah is meant to be buried at a space like Chelsea, owned by a Slavic oligarch, perhaps as infidel an entity as is possible in the “global” European football stage. It also seems the careers of all greatest African players, from either culture there, involve an Italian spell on the upward trajectory and a Turkish stint on the downward trajectory. Those seem to be the metaphysical entry and exit points into the world of European football a lot of times. In addition to his epic runs with the Egyptian national team in the 2017 African Cup of Nations, it was a pair of loan spells at Fiorentina and Roma, along with a second year at Roma after they bought him out from Chelsea, that Salah made his name ring out across the Earth. And since he came to Liverpool, looking a natural fit in that red kit with his joyous smile, beard, and waft of hair, he has been a scoring machine. Except not a machine, but a mystic, so tapped into the energies of football that it all just flows to him so easily at times. It’s been an absolute joy to watch, and unfortunately all magic doesn’t necessarily come to an end, but it does get replaced by magic somewhere else, as mystical experiences like this current Liverpool era are impossible for manmade hands to maintain, no matter how great any managerial genius tries to present themselves. I pray we never see the blasphemy of Salah in one of the major international corporate branding kits like Man United or Real Madrid. And it’s also sad to think that the wealth inequality in global football is such that somewhere like the Turkish Super Lig has to be the exit point and we won’t ever see Salah roaming after an African Champions League trophy in his mid-30s for Al Ahly. I really miss African Champions League football, to be honest. [RAVEN]

#4: TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (up three from #7 last time) – So now that we are re-booting (a terrible, terrible footballing pun) after the COVID-19 hibernation, I’m going to start diving into English players more regularly—one, to keep myself honest with regards to my raging and constant Anglophobia (I mean, they’re in the same fucked up boat as us in the United States, with a subhuman private school shithead driving them to societal ruin and everyday misery) and two, because this is our second time around with most of these clubs and Raven doesn’t want us picking the same dudes--so I can’t subsume myself in the Irish fullbacks, the central African midfielders, and the Slavo-Baltic goalkeepers. Hopefully, you, the reader, benefit. Or I fuck it all up terribly. So we start with Trent here, who from what I can tell, given the metrics of youthful age and hyper-mature ability, is possibly the most cash-valuable player in world football right now, even more than that Viking striker beast Erling who was eating the Bundesliga of late. I forget sometimes the ridiculous assembly of talent in this Liverpool squad, both brought in from the unfancied-fancy clubs and nurtured from within like Trent. Of course I’m going to lament that he comes out of England, and reps the Three Lions, but I’m seeing more and more discourse that Liverpool isn’t even really a part of England, either in the past or very much in the hyper-present. Predictably, I’m going to ride hard with that obstinance. So this young man is only 21 and maybe by 30 he’ll be captaining some northwest city-state Mersey Republic that’s the lynchpin of a People’s Federated States of Scotland, Ireland, Mersey, Man, Wales, and Cornwall that daily threatens to bulldoze Londinium into the Channel and construct in its place a Boudica power-fucking Stuart Hall senseless statue (or Sean O’Casey, or Paul Robeson, or Raymond Williams—maybe it could be a rotating thing) that can be seen from orbit. So I like the metaphysics of Trent—the aristocratic-sounding hyphenated name that he wears exponentially better than any white-ass Peer, the 66 jersey number (indicating pride and righteous humility at having come through the youth ranks), the grandmother that (I’m hoping/assuming) found Alex Ferguson insufficient in the sack, owing almost certainly to the pent-up erotic frustrations of latent Scots Presbyterianism—John Knox ain’t letting no thick woman ride his face (shame, as that was the waste of perfectly sikk facesitting beard….but I digress into theology). I’d praise Trent further for not representing the U.S. for which he is eligible, but there is really no choice there. As a player, that right back slot can be ALMOST as difficult to get correct as that left back fever dream of managers. Particularly in this day and age where any club looking for success at the highest levels of premierships or continental competitions has to say “fuck it” to a defensive-minded fullback. If I’m being more to the point, fullbacks at elite level don’t even exist anymore, nor do straightforward “wide-midfielders.” You want a converted winger like Alexander-Arnold who has enough recovery speed and ball skills to add a modicum of defensive cover when the team you are brutalizing manages their requisite two or three breakaways a game. Tuck that bloodthirsty (shin-thirsty) DM in front of two athletic central defenders powerhouses and you have the modern footballing template. You want those fullbacks raining the crosses, from both live and deadball situations, and apparently Trent has that skill in abundance. The added beauty here is that I cannot see yung dude going anywhere—this is not a Barcelona or monied up Man City or rejuvenated Chelsea transfer windfall. Dude is almost certainly the heart of this Liverpool team for a generation. [PAUL]

#5: SADIO MANE (down one from #4 last time) – Again, further evidence of just how obscenely talented this Liverpool squad is. Downright filthy. For a “winger” (really just a wide-striker—Klopp and Bielsa don’t give a fuck about rigid positional designations—it’s all about fluidity and awareness—and it’s a wonder Ulla and Laura, respectively, have not suffered orgasm-induced short-term comas), Mane scores an absurd amount of goals. From the hinterlands of Senegal, forbidden sport by an oppressive father (probably born of jealousy, I’d suspect), to time spent in the Southampton incubator, it’s an edifying history to read. As a Celtic supporter, I’m also pleased to suss Liverpool’s approach to grabbing players that perform well against them. It’s a solid transfer strategy, and really should hold way more weight than the supposedly more refined algebra of scouting networks. The absurdity and self-critical frustration of being a rural-born and raised U.S. South shithead is that I can’t see Mane’s name without wanting to hear it in my head with that regional high nasal inflection that really emphasizes an “AIN” sound in “m-a-n”. To be honest, this makes me like him even more, even though I will always verbalize his name, appropriately, as “mah-ney” (which I guess is right, I’ve heard a lot of French and that seems correct, but I also trust neither google robot pronunciation nor British commentators in such things).  On the international level, I’m hoping he gets one more good World Cup to push Senegal and Alou Cisse into the prominence they deserve (and strike some deserved fear into white-ass colonialist squads). The only concern I can see here is that Mane seems like a player that the likes of Barcelona or Real would bounce some huge cash bags on them Liverpool American owner dikkheads and they’d take it and he’d be off to torture English football from La Liga (which as much as I like Liverpool in an EPL context, I’d be ok with). [PAUL]

#6: ROBERTO FIRMINO (same as last time; also TWO METAPHYSICAL STARS previously, both with Liverpool) – Firmino arrived at Anfield a couple months before Klopp, during the last bit of Brendan Rodgers time in charge. I know that Salah and Mane get the goal scoring love, and people have claimed that Firmino is not the goal threat he should be (with a few notable shouldn't have missed moments this season, including after the return), but I think this overlooks Firmino's absolute metaphysical dominance of space. He occupies the pitch in a multifaceted way most others don't, not even the mega spirit warriors like van Dijk or Salah. The talk of Firmino leaving hasn't really started yet, which is good, because he's only 28, and probably more key to their success than people easily realize. But at the same time, he might age of that central fulcrum metaphysics role in the next season or two, and he also makes the superficial value of a guy like Salah or Mane seem higher. Firmino wouldn't be at the top of my list to cash out on though, because of Firmino will decrease the flow of others. He is touched by god in a special way, signified by the Deus crown tattoo on his neck, which can never be hidden. (I mean, I guess he could, if he wore one of those supporters scarves or some shit, but why would an actual player wear one of those? Don't they just hold them up for photos so the club sells more of them?) [RAVEN]

#7: ALISSON (up one from #8 last time) – Virgil and Alisson form a defensive juggernaut built on telepathy and being the fucking best and most athletic dudes at their spots in the world. You don’t have to just deal with one, you have to deal with both of them if you ever want to try to score on Liverpool, which really isn’t fair but fuck that shit, these dudes are doing a once in a lifetime thing and I get to cheer for it like a goddamn teenage girl. I’m sitting here in a cheerleader skirt with pom poms writing this and if you’re lucky you’ll see my dick when I do one of those jumps where I have to spread my legs. It’s all in the service of sportsmanship, and I can only do it because Alisson is keeping a clean sheet and that’s what the night calls for. Sometimes you just have to ride the beauty of the moment because it won’t come again, and Alisson and Virgil holding things down as only they can is one of those moments, extended for as long as you can fucking hope for and one day they’ll both be gone and I’ll just be a dude in a cheerleader skirt jacking off to the good old days. That’s what sports are really all about. [NEIL]

#8: GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM (down three from #5 last time) – Suriname is a tiny nation along South America's northern coast, bordered by French Guiana and Guyana. All three of these nations, in footballing status, are not large enough or have a developed football program to be part of the South American football structure (CONMEBOL), so they all play as part of the North American football association (CONCACAF). The western hemisphere is strange in that the two continents actually connect by a sliver of Central American land, and the football is broken into a top tier (South America) and second tier essentially (North America), with there being a semi-acceptance of Mexico as part of the first tier. This of course leaves the US as kings of the second tier (when Mexico is not entirely involved). Anyways, back to Suriname, which was part of colonial expansion through the western hemisphere like all other places, and what is now Suriname was a Dutch colony. Most of the Afro-Surinamese people there were descendants of slaves brought to work the sugar plantations. There were a large number of escaped slaves in this time who formed independent settlements much like their previous African settlements in Suriname. Slavery records are hard to come by, outside of shipping logs, but about a third of the slaves who landed in Suriname came from Central Africa, and then about a quarter more from Ghana. Even with these records though, they only really cover current post-colonial national delineations. Of what we know about pre-colonial societies, the Akan people from central Ghana and Loango people of central Africa were the two highest enslaved peoples who were sold and imported to current day Suriname as human cargo. All this is preamble to the living fact that Georginio Wignaldum is the child of two Afro-Surinamese parents, who had ended up in Rotterdam, Holland, by the time he was born. The number of footballing stars of African descent born in the former colonial masters of their ancestral homes is sometimes shocking, yet easy to overlook, as so many of these men claim national allegiance to their ancestor's overlords. When he was six, Wijnaldum's parents divorced, and his mom moved to Amsterdam, but it was decided he would remain with his grandmother in Rotterdam. As a young kid, he never even cared about football, but a chance trip to a Sparta Rotterdam opening day with his older cousin triggered the sport's blossom in his life. He was on Sparta Rotterdam's youth team at age 7, and by his mid-teens, had graduated onto the Feyenoord youth team, which was Rotterdam's most prominent club. This led to him playing for their senior team, and then the even more prominent Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, which in turn led to his extraction from Dutch football to play for Newcastle United in England. His initial season with Newcastle United, he was their top goal scorer, but they were still relegated to the Championship, which allowed Liverpool to sign him in the summer of 2016. And while he's just a role player on the club, and is heavily compensated for his role, it's impossible to not notice the similarities in international resource extraction from colonial times in how footballing talent comes from marginal spaces, and ends up in a Liverpool jersey, for example. And surely, Wijnaldum enjoys the fruits of his labor, but the corporate/club overlords certainly enjoy more of those fruits than he does. And yet without the overlords being able to extract these precious human resources and collect them all together under the guidance of an overseer like Jurgen Klopp, they may not get the same level of fruit to enjoy that they do now. That's the twisted perversity of capitalism - that the hoarding or resources and maximizing productivity somehow increases the harvest. But for how long? Is this sustainable? Can growth in these abstract economic terms be forever? Of course not. Nothing manmade is forever. [RAVEN]

#9: JORDAN HENDERSON (same as last time) – He’s the captain, well, not *the* captain, which is Steven Gerrard who is analogous to Steve Yzerman of the Red Wings, which is another of my sports fetishes and for fans of both, and weirdly there is a fairly sizable cross section of Liverpool and Red Wings fans, the two Steves will always be the Captains. So, that’s a fucking lot for someone like Jordan Henderson to have to live up to. It’s really not fair and often puts him in a no-win position. On top of that, he has to live up to the captaincy of a team full of Spirit Warriors like Mo Salah, Bobby Firmino, Sadio Mane, Virgil and on and on it goes. He’s nobody’s favorite player and yet he’s the captain of this once in a lifetime team. That means he has to be doing something right. I mean, a dude could not survive as captain of a team with all those towering Spirit Warriors hanging over him if he was not a Spirit Warrior himself. Thus, despite not seeming to be all that special, I have to conclude that Jordan Henderson is a true Spirit Warrior. The rest of the Spirit Warriors accept him as their leader so how could he not be? It always feels strange to me that this is the case because I don’t get that big Spirit Warrior vibe from Jordan Henderson, but the math says he is. I don’t know, these things can get confusing. But whether you think Jordan Henderson deserves this status or if you think he’s just fucking lucky to be there, it doesn’t really matter because in the end, he’s The Captain and all the other dudes aren’t. He has survived the legacy of Stevie Gerrard *and* the molten power of Mo Salah and the boys so, man, the dude has to be doing something fucking right. Right? [NEIL]

#10: FABINHO (same as last time) – The homerism of most football writing is hilarious (and highly suspect, as always) which is why we put the metaphysical underpinnings to these lists and have a foundation of actual minutes per match metrics to create the master lists. It’s metascience, with plenty of science and plenty of meta. I did a normal google news search for Fabinho, to see what the word on the press released streets were about the Brazilian midfielder after he had been injured and Jordan Henderson had filled in fairly well. Was Fabinho transfer material? What was the supporters’ thoughts on the young Brazilian who had been so great in the past for the Reds? Well lolol the first result came up on a fan site after Fabinho returned from injury with 36 minutes on pitch, and it declared, in I’m sure the most unbiased way possible, that Fabinho will likely become “dominator and controller supreme”. The loss of actual journalism, or the ability to think critically, or even the ability to think at all, has been absolutely complicit in the rise of open fascism in what we consider western civilization. Our sources of information are so distorted and propagandish. That’s why I want to remind you mid-piece here that you can help support football metaphysics by venmoing us American money. Paul will use his portion for ammunition, Neil use his for drugs, and to be honest I will probably buy goats. That venmo is @ravenmack23. Yes, my first name is Charles, but I have always gone by Raven. It is my government papers middle name and my real life first name. [RAVEN]

#11: JOE GOMEZ (up two from #13 last time) – “Joe Gomez” as a name always fucks me up, because how is he an English dude with that name? I guess he had a Gambian father, so there’s an African connection, as there is with a large proportion of the former colonial entities domestic footballers. But “Joe Gomez” is about as American a name as one could find in the 21st Century version of America that accepts the large cultural changes that have happened since continental migration patterns of the past half century. Every time I hear “Joe Gomez” I literally think, “wait a second, didn’t I work with a Joe Gomez?” And then I swear in my head he was this dude that I painted with for a while, short and chubby, and his brother worked with us too, except his brother was way younger. We all worked for this other guy, who was the owner, so I was the sort of supervisor/foreman I guess, because I ran shit whenever the owner wandered off for window time to go “get supplies” and be gone for 4 hours out of the day. He often at least felt guilty about it so he’d bring us all back lunch; but then again he was also exploiting our labor by billing clients for more than twice what he paid us for labor hours, and not giving benefits at all. I got an occasional bonus, but Joe Gomez and his younger brother did not. And eventually, once Joe Gomez and his brother realized I was chill, and not an asshole gringo trying to fuck their lives up any chance I got, they told me where they lived. We were fucking off on an extended lunch break in the shade at a job site one day, not caring because the owner was off again on one of his four hour supply runs, and Joe Gomez finally told me, in our mangled way of his bad English and my bad Spanish meeting somewhere in the middle on a linguistic bridge built from pallet scraps, that his younger brother was actually his son. I was thankful they trusted me enough to tell me this, but then I ended up quitting that job, or they got fired, or something. Years later, on a different construction crew, much bigger, one of those “we care about the Earth” neoliberal construction companies with names like Arterra or EarthBuilds or Lithic (lol, that was the literal name of this one), I saw Joe Gomez’s son working on the labor crew. I hollered out to him, and found out this he had two other brothers working with him as well there, which made me happy. I wondered whether their dad was still around, and how he was doing, this old Joe Gomez of my memories, but I didn’t get a chance to ask that day. I meant to ask next time I saw those dudes, but I think I ended up quitting that job too, because I was doing side work at a billionaire’s estate, and had all the hours I wanted to bill going on with the billionaire, so why the fuck not work for yourself? One time they had me paint a barn roof a lavender shade so it matched the sunset from the kitchen window of the main house. When I was done, the billionaire’s wife said the lavender shade was just a touch too dark, so could I do it again? I said I’d have to bill them again to do it again. She didn’t care. The distant barn roof had to be the perfect shade of lavender to match the sunset from the kitchen window of the big house they lived at about six weeks out of the year. So I did it again. It is really unsettling to me that two people like the billionaire’s wife and Joe Gomez the guy I used to work with who wasn’t really named Joe Gomez occupy the same planet, even the same tiny region. How do we reconcile this? I’m not sure we do. Burn it all down. [RAVEN]

#12: JAMES MILNER (same as last time) – Milner is officially “vice captain” this season, which means second in line to wear the captain’s armband, but I like to pretend it means he’s the club’s vice captain, so he has a backpack full of drugs and fucked up German porn tucked away in his locker, plus guns out in his Range Rover in the parking lot, for anybody on the club who needs fucked up shit like that. As I imagine that, I also imagine Mo Salah and Sadio Mane sitting together across the locker room, feeling uncomfortable with all this, because Allah wouldn’t approve at all, and wondering why they’ve allowed themselves to take the path that has put them in this predicament, where the internal jihad in a person’s heart between good and evil is so obviously being fought out in the open. But Milner notices this, so he goes over, to explain to his teammates, “Hey guys, I’m not forcing anything on you, don’t worry. I really respect both of you, and the life you try to live, and how you lead. I’ll keep my bullshit out of your way as much as possible, but many of our hearts in western culture are horribly darkened by the media poisons we’ve ingested since birth. We love these things. I wish it was different, but it’s not. But I’ll keep it out your face. Peace.” And an uncomfortable truce is formed between the two spiritual factions. That’s why he got named vice captain in the first place to be honest, because of his ability to indulge in the rituals of the dark-hearted, plus his leadership abilities. [RAVEN]

#13: ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN (up six from #19 last time) – I was never that hot on the other AOC coming over to Liverpool from Arsenal where I felt like he was a chronic underachiever, but I have to admit that he has grown on me somewhat. He has managed to have a few moments with the Reds and that’s a few more than I ever thought he would as I assumed he would flame out and not be able to crack the lineup. He hasn’t asserted himself as an everyday dude, but he has managed to make himself an important part of the team and this is a pretty goddamn good team so that’s meaningful. I think perhaps I harbor resentment of him being a former Gunner and having a name that makes him sound like he had fucking servants growing up or some shit, and all of that is unfair probably, just my own snapshot thought upon first seeing his name and then seeing his game with Arsenal. It’s hard to love dudes who you used to want to see thrown in the ditch, but I try anyway and I now accept AOC just as I accept the other AOC. Wouldn’t it be weird if they hooked up? Maybe it’s fate, I don’t know these things. [NEIL]

#14: NABY KEITA (up one from #15 last time) – I was excited when Liverpool bought this dude from RB Leipzig (seeing as he’s a black man, I regret saying Liverpool “bought” him, but this is New Writing, there’s no going back) but it has been somewhat frustrating as poor Naby has been injured for much of his run with the squad, which is tough because, well, it’s tough to even break into this squad. But there have been flashes where I’ve been reminded why I was excited in the first place. I mean, I actively watched old clips of him doing it up for RP Leipzig when Liverpool was courting him, so this is a dude I have a special interest in. I suspect he has Spirit Warrior potential, but for now that’s all it is, and there’s always a chance this shit doesn’t work out, maybe he keeps getting hurt or maybe he ends up being Lazar Markovic, remember him? Exactly. [NEIL]

#15: JOEL MATIP (down four from #11 last time) – Matip has worn the #32 throughout his professional career, originally in Germany for Schalke '04, and ever since with Liverpool, taking the kit number from a lesser player upon his arrival in 2016. I fell into a metaphysics cross-examination of number because of this. Apparently 32 is a common reserve number in German football, but some folks excel while still wearing the jersey - notably Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich, so they sort of get frozen in that number rather than switch to a more common 1-11 (usually 2-6 for defenders like Matip) once they become a regular first team member. Football is unlike most other major professional sports (at least in America) as well because you don't get locked into a jersey for your entire stint with a team. The 1-11 may change little by little over the seasons. But Matip has consistently worn the #32, which may contribute to why he sometimes looks like a reserve on defense. [RAVEN]

#16: DIVOCK ORIGI (up one from #17 last time) – So before I even look into this guy’s stats and background, I have to do a deep metaphysical dive and/or just talk some socio-cultural self-absorbed foolishness. I don’t know how common it is in other socio-cultural contexts, but peoples of Appalachia/the upland South, particularly those of a lower economic rung, tend to just look at a “complicated” word or name, assess a few letters of it, and then come up with their own “pronunciation” that is, at best, only tenuously connected to the correct pronunciation. Last names, or “foreign” place names will really fuck them up, and I supposed this is part of the whole wackness of last names in the backcountry (or in a U.S. immigrant context more generally). It’s part of our whole imperial bullshit Anglo project, and I can understand the personal practicalities of it, but I cringe hard when 9/10 of the Chinese-born students I get in my university classes use a “Christian” name that’s nowhere on my roll or on their transcript. Sure, I’m probably gonna super-fuck up their “real” name the first dozen times I try to say it. But I’m going to give it my best and I’m going to learn it—if you let me. But I’m sure they’re just well and over white people being dumbass white people, so it’s just easier on them to do that. So anyway, this thing of my older relatives and back home community members doing this shit has always pissed me off, pretty sure since I was a kid. Maybe some people think it’s cute, and maybe it is, in a three-year old, but not no 65 year old. But the annoying thing is I can’t help myself from doing it in my head, as noted in my above writing on Mane. And I do the same here, only in my twisted pop-sub-cultural development, I see Divock here and I can’t think of nothing but the band Skinny Puppy—specifically the lead singer Nivek Ogre. Every time I see Origi’s name on a team sheet—I hate myself for thinking it’s like Nivek Ogre’s twin brother, or maybe a cousin, “Divock” Ogre. It’s horrible. Connecting some solid Kenyan-Belgian striker with some wacked out Prairie Province conceptual art Canadian musician dude, I’m a disgrace. In my defense, Skinny Puppy was my SHIT for like a solid ten years at the more formative stages of my life—they’re responsible for my first dumbass tattoo and for vanity plates I couldn’t really afford on a fucked up falling apart 87 Chevy S-10 that I used to have. I don’t know how much Skinny Puppy penetrated into the popular consciousness, outside of suing some branch of the U.S. government for using their music to torture Guantanamo detainees. I can’t even sometimes….. Anyway, the proper Divock (who was actually named for a Serbian basketball player, so fuck it, maybe I’m not as completely wack as I think I am), made his first senior appearance in the 69th minute, so the auspices were good, even if it took some wandering to see them fulfilled. Divock is a difficult player to assess—not a prolific goalscorer for a center forward, but then his opoortunties are somewhat limited at Liverpool. But man, it seems like whenever you need an IMPORTANT as fuck goal, he’s the guy you want in and around the box. Klopp obviously prefers Firmino to him, but I don’t know that it much matters who Liverpool’s starting striker is—more like they just need a pusher and a puller in there to let the goals flow from wide, maybe put one away if it falls in at his feet. It’s another one of those tactical intricacies of the modern game—what Football Manager would be calling that “False 9” I suppose. Origi seems very content to stick around in this role of off-the-bench potential savior, and I applaud that—because he’s getting paid and getting trophies versus playing every match and scoring twelve goals a season for Burnley. [PAUL]

#17: DEJAN LOVREN (down three from #14 last time) – Again, the names. I went to school with a “Lovren” kid (or maybe it was “Lovern”….but I’m pretty sure it was Lovren, because it was pretty unusual for rural southwest Virginia in the 1980s). Didn’t really know there might’ve been some Croat families running around the area, though my grandmother’s new neighbors are either Romanian or Bulgarian (my dad and uncles can’t get it straight) and (supposedly) Muslim—but I also wonder if they’re just Eastern Orthodox and to a Southern Baptist anything outside of Protestantism is “Muslim” these days. This (very big extended) family occasionally buy a live goat to fatten up and slaughter, then roast outside….because it’s a rural farm. My most fucked up uncle, with both the soul and former vocation of a cop, jokes about how these people obviously must pass the cup around and drink the blood straight out of the freshly killed carcass. This is a dude that probably saw dozens of hog killings in his youth, and who also cut the balls off a deer and wrapped them up as a Christmas present for his sister-in-law, so really fuck anything that he has to say on the subject of propriety and animal parts. But Eastern Europeans and Balkans in Appalachia must be a thing, maybe sooner than I even thought. I don’t know how deeply I can be bothered to go into the minutiae of Dejan’s stats, given that over the years I’m pretty sure I’ve not heard of a more maligned EPL player. Given I’m firm friends with many Liverpool supporters, I’ve noticed absolutely nothing but spittle-flecked contempt, or if they were feeling charitable, a regretful slow head shake. Not good if your own support can’t decide if you are an active malignancy, or a tragic disaster—are you insurance-scam kerosene arson, or are you passed-out drunk cigarette and cheap mattress? Lovren is, I suppose, one of those archetypes I keep hammering on about in these write-ups—someone, at some point, in some scouting-agent network, decided he was a world-beater. Substantial sums of money changed hands, Dejan changed clubs, and that rep-value had to be sustained, even if more often than not (according to my Liverpool boys) there was no evidence of a dependable player on display. Maybe not even a minimally competent one. Lovren seems content to ride the bench, consequently not fuck up, and collect pay. I see that Liverpool are even taking up that extra year contract option, which I guess means quality central defenders are not thick on the ground right now. If he has any sense, he’ll head back to Dinamo Zagreb for his remaining career after that, maybe lower in the Bundesliga. But I guess if I have any metaphysical connection to make here—don’t make up shit about your neighbors when you don’t really know (and especially if you’re looking to have your fucked up expectations fulfilled) and some stupid-ass authority figure might think it’s funny to gift you severed body parts to make a dumbass point that only makes sense to them. Maybe football scouts are really cop uncles, I don’t know. [PAUL]

#18: ADRIAN (up three from #21 last time; also previously ranked #23 for West Ham on 01-Feb-2020) – I never fully understood why the Reds got Adrian for cover at GK, because Adrian’s final run with West Ham was comically horrible. When Alisson went down to injury this season briefly, Adrian somehow was able to hold it together enough for the Liverpool offensive juggernaut to keep them rolling, but that all came to a rough end in the Champions League, where Atletico Madrid knocked them out early, and Adrian looked to be as Adrian-esque as ever. The prospect of being a high profile second-choice GK is one of the hardest football metaphysics roles to fill, because nobody wants to be second-choice anything, and GK is about as superstitious a position as there exists on the pitch, needing regular time to maintain regular flow of footballing energies. I’m not sure everybody is built for it. Adrian certainly wasn’t built for first-choice duties it seemed, so maybe he’d be a fine fit for second-choice so long as he’s not thrust into first team action regularly like he had to face this season. But that’s such a gamble. “But the one in front of the gun lives forever” from that Kendrick Lamar song just started bouncing around my head for some reason. [RAVEN]

#19: ADAM LALLANA (up three from #22 last time) – I hate this dude, based, I think, entirely on him scoring against Scotland during World Cup qualifiers. Which really shouldn’t be the foundation of any strong emotion one way or another towards a football player, since a squad of my 11 ex-girlfriends could take Scotland 3-1, with the burlesque dancer scoring a hat-trick and the pathological liar groupie in goal keeping out a penalty. [I worry this may read as misogynism, but really, I like the Scotland squad, and I have good thoughts for many of my exes and also for the Scotland squad, and would retain those good feelings even if they whipped Scotland’s ass and Scotland took its customary any-competition-qualifier ass-beating…..man, that burlesque dancer really did like to get spanked….and to strangle me when she was on top….] Again, consulting my Liverpool friends, they assured me that Adam was a good guy, a solid pro, that my hate was misplaced (Suarez they could understand, Gerrard—even pre-Rangers—obviously, of course, we can see it). But too late, the contempt has stayed. Lallana is almost certainly off to Leicester (and Brendan), and combined with Vardy and that blue shade, he can still fuck off. [PAUL]

#20: NECO WILLIAMS – A young (19) Welshman already getting a little bit of time on Liverpool's senior club. As a Swansea City supporter, I'm all about the Welshmen, because I always inadvertently hope they fall back to the Swans and help usher in a golden age of Premier League glory. Of course, the Swans are mired haplessly in the Championship with American owners, and in fact this past season utilized a Liverpool wonderkid loan because of our manager's previous Liverpool youth academy ties to likely finish in a strong just outside the playoffs position. Sigh. So Neco, who got his actual Premier League debut last month, will probably end up being loaned to stupid fucking Cardiff City, who will probably win the playoffs and get promoted, and fuck I hate sports. Side note: Neco Williams was born in Wrexham, which always reminds me of one of the greatest football books I ever read, as an American learning the sport - Twenty-Two Foreigners in Funny Shorts, by Pete Davies. The book was a guide to soccer before the '94 World Cup, but also went in-depth through the author's beloved Wrexham's club attempt at promotion as well. It's an absolutely fabulous book that helps one understand the metaphysics of football. Sadly, the sub-title is "The Intelligent Fan's Guide to Soccer and World Cup '94" which unfortunately ties it to an event a quarter century in the past. But metaphysics is timeless, and time is a false constraint put upon us all anyways. Fuck time. [RAVEN]

#21: CURTIS JONES – Young Curtis Jones is finally getting some time on the pitch under Klopp. So much so recently that I imagine he’s a candidate to trade in that #48 for Shaqiri’s #23 once he’s transferred out. And despite all this pertinent info, it is absolutely impossible for me, being who I am and where I’m from, as an un-American American steeped in rural Turtle Island metaphysics, to not recall the old Lynyrd Skynyrd song, and just wanna sing at the top of my lungs, “CURTIS JONES WAS THE FINEST PICKER… TO EVER PLAY THE BLUES!” In fact, now that I’ve seen the connection to actual football, I anxiously await the next Liverpool/Chelsea match so I can actually do this, all by myself, alone in my shitty depressing home, as a single dad, watching English football on like a Wednesday afternoon bootleg stream, in bright pink Scotland GK shorts, well cum-stained though no other people were involved. Paradise City, baby. [RAVEN]

#22: XHERDAN SHAQIRI (down six from #16 last time) – Shaqiri was the star of a great footballing metaphysics moment that I watched live on the television, when he scored the go-ahead goal for Switzerland in World Cup 2018 group play, against Serbia. Both he and Granit Xhaka are of Kosovar descent, so hate the fuckin’ Serbs for what they did during the ethnic cleansing of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and they both scored goals, making the eagle gesture in celebration, a symbol of ethnic Albanians as well as defiance to the Serbs, which of course FIFA fined, because it likes to pretend that type of shit has no place in football. Kosovo’s recognition by UEFA and FIFA happened in the qualifying cycle for World Cup 2018, so their national team’s status is still pretty lowly. Guys like Shaqiri have not transferred international allegiance, even though they were given the chance. Most of their national team players play in Kosovo, or Norway. The only major domestic European league player on the Kosovar national team is Lirim Kastrati, who is signed to Bologna in Italy’s Serie A, but mostly still plays for their youth team, at age 21. Shaqiri’s metaphysical pinnacle at the World Cup happened while he was the star for Stoke City still, but also disparaged his teammates’ collective quality as their season wound down, and the Potters were relegated. This led to them offloading him to Liverpool, but he’s never entirely caught on here, perhaps a little too much individual ego for this collective effort. He was injured a good while, but despite being fit now is still not part of Klopp’s line-ups post-pandemic. The next month will likely see Shaqiri move on to a new home. From a personal stand point, having fallen in love a bit with Serie A, and how the non-Juventus clubs are trying to be a thorn in the Cristiano Ronaldo-led club’s side, I am hoping Shaqiri returns to Inter Milan. If somehow Zlatan Ibrahimovic and him could co-exist, even briefly, as a pair of ridiculously egotistic obnoxious but somehow lovable assholes, in Italian football, that would be an amazing flash of a period to enjoy. [RAVEN]

#23: HARVEY ELLIOTT – Conflicted, as “Harvey Elliott” sounds like the name of some eminently chill country dude, living in a falling down house in a dirt driveway mountain cove. People always talking about they “saw ol’ Harv Elyut down t’store.” Makes me think of Elliott the Dragon from a movie I saw as a kid—which might be some deeper metaphysics, since I think Elliott is a primarily Welsh surname. My dad was an obsessed Bill Elliott fanboy when I was a kid, so I’m carrying that cognitive baggage as well. When I could be bothered to go to the gym, the woman training me was a former collegiate shot-putter from north Alabama that was an Elliott. It’s a good, solid, hillbilly name, so I’m going to choose to see that in Harvey the attacking winger here. 17 years old and getting time on the bench and a fresh contract, plus tutelage by the likes of Salah. The future looks good for this kid, because I trust Klopp to spot an attacking player. Harvey’s doing that stupid-ass De Gea top knot thing with his hair, but then he’s also shaving fucked up lines into the buzzed part underneath. That there is a good sign, particularly when combined with the scraggly facial hair. I hope he wears nothing but tracksuits, even when he’s not training. I want to like this yung dude, but it all gets ruined if Stevie G asks about a season long loan in Scotland, which I could see, to be honest. Best case scenario, Harvey is another Alexander-Arnold coming through and he develops quickly and patiently with Klopp and Salah. [PAUL]

#24: TAKUMI MINAMINO – Takumi Minamino is allegedly the next big hype train for Liverpool, who has been getting Premier League action in increments since the restart post-pandemic shutdown.  I’m not sure I’ve seen more hype than delivery thus far from him. I could be projecting here, but it seems Asian footballers have a rough history in English Premier League. And even in the Asian breakdown, it seems Koreans have been more prominent than Japanese players, although Shinji Kagawa hada  good run at Manchester United, and Shinji Okazaki was key part of Leicester City’s title run. Those are the only two to have won Premier League titles before this season. Does Minamino’s limited time since January mean he won the Premier League title as well? And since I just read that the two Shinjis were the only two Japanese players to have won the Premier League before, as a buried factoid in Okazaki’s wikipedia page, who edits all that obscure shit like that? There’s some fucking nerd somewhere on this Earth, likely in America to be honest, who just sits there looking at Japanese footballer pages on Wikipedia updating shit like that. What a weird crowd-sourced form of knowledge, so susceptible to breakdowns, yet universally utilized as the go-to source for information. Every day of my life I look up something on wikipedia, and ultimately the guiding authority on the things I’m reading are just weird incel shut-ins who have nothing else to do with their lives. Then again, lolol I’m writing footballer blurbs for a non-paying mostly disinterested audience of a couple dozen people if we’re lucky. [RAVEN]

#25: PEDRO CHRIVELLA – Lol I barely know who this dude even is. That’s because he’s made, like, one appearance for the Reds and that appearance was in an EFL Cup game when he came in as a reserve, and it turned out later that he was ineligible and Liverpool was fined £200,000 so that didn’t work out too fucking good. And now, Liverpool has announced that he’s going to Nantes after his contract runs out this year so this dude was truly a fart in the wind, may Allah bless his ass. [NEIL]

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