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Running It Back - Team Liquid

Photo via Riot Game/Getty Images

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

22nd Oct 2021 16:51

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It’s been no more than a week since Team Liquid were eliminated from the 2021 League of Legends World Championship. A team that saw instant success early on at the start of the pro season went through various trials and tribulations just to finish with a 3-3 record for the fourth year in a row at the international tournament’s group stage.

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To many, this mirroring of a placing - a trend if you will - would be cause for concern. It’s been four years now since the organisation made its first World Championship, and even though there have been several roster changes, the North American mainstay can’t seem to get over the hump. 

In that case, let’s do a dissection as to - even though they have the strongest roster on paper to date - why the team has failed yet again to make it past the group stage.

Photo via Riot Game/Getty Images
Photo via Riot Game/Getty Images

During the offseason, many teams were looking to strengthen up their ranks in various ways. Some teams managed to get sizeable upgrades in several positions. You had the Team SoloMids of the world who kept one player as their anchor and filled in spots as required, and you had a team like 100 Thieves who, in that same vein of wanting an anchor player, seemingly took four players from a developing team and plugged them into the roster. 

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Then there are teams like Cloud9 and Team Liquid. Both Cloud9 and Team Liquid only made two key changes in their roster. Cloud9 went with the solo lane replacement route, bringing in Abrahim “Fudge” Allami from Academy and one of the best Western players in history, Luka “Perkz” Perkovic from the LEC in the mid-lane. On the other hand, Team Liquid decided to mirror the top lane swap, replacing organisation mainstay, Jeong “Impact” Eon-young and bringing in a dominant player from the LEC, Barney “Alphari” Morris. This swap was coupled with a change in the jungle where they brought in veteran of the scene and vastly improved, Lucas “Santorin” Larsen—he was one of the highly sought out pieces at the time. Both Alphari and Santorin were integrated with mid-laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and the bot lane duo of Edward “Tactical” Ra and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in.

It was a great way to start the season. A talented roster on paper from top to bottom was bound to bring dominance over the rest of the league. It brought in three finals visits in a row with a first place in the Lock In tournament, a close second place with a substitute jungler in the MSS and another second place in the LCS Championship. What’s not to love? It’s a roster that with all intents and purposes, although they weren’t as dominant as the previous four-time LCS winning dynasty, could compete at the international stage. 

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The roster had their issues, ranging from Santorin missing the first week of Lock In due to visa issues even though they won, to his unexpected waves of migraines that prevented him from playing key matches in the MSS forced him to miss approximately six weeks of the summer split regular season. Add the fact that Alphari was benched at the start of the summer split due to attitude issues and head coach, Joshua “Jatt” Leesman resigned at around the same time, the team still did well.

So what is the problem? Why did this Team Liquid roster become a part of the organisation’s history of not making it past the group stage again? Should there be adjustments made to the roster or is there more to it than that?

Looking at it holistically, the team doesn’t have a clear weak point, at least when it comes to individual player skill. Alphari dominated the spring split and was a close runner-up in MVP voting. Santorin, although he missed games in the Lock In and spring and summer splits, still performed as well as he could. According to Oracle’s Elixir, of all NA junglers, he had the highest KDA at 5.5, the highest gold difference at 10 minutes at 257, and the highest experience difference at 10 minutes at 213. Santorin was also almost at the top for first-blood percentage at 56 percent and CS difference at 10 minutes at 1.8, overshadowed only by that split’s MVP, Robert “Blaber” Huang. Even though he wasn’t fully present for reasons outside his control, he wasn’t the issue either.

Jensen was as solid as can be, posting the highest KDA for any mid-laner in the spring split at 6.0, and at the MSS at 5.6, according to Oracle’s Elixir. While the bot lane was considered to be one of the stronger duos in the league. Even though Tactical struggled to mirror his past self from Worlds of 2020, he still performed well. CoreJJ kept being himself, the universal best support in the league ever since he joined, and always a ballot for MVP voting.

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If the players are individually strong, then what else could be pinpointed? As mentioned previously, the team won the Lock In tournament and if it wasn’t for Santorin having to step down, who knows what could have happened during the MSS. After all, they were one game away from winning it all two times in a row. And even though they got swept in the finals of the LCS Championship in near-record time, they still made it to the finals. No other team made it to all three tournament finals in the season. Not bad at all for a team that had to battle through unexpected roadblocks.

Photo via Riot Games
Photo via Riot Games

The team needs something that glues them all together—a coach. During the first two finals, Team Liquid had Jatt at the helm. Whether or not he’s a good coach is up to interpretation, but no one can debate that having someone stable at the helm is beneficial to any team. And as a team who randomly fails to show up in key moments—their first playoff match versus Cloud9 at the MSS and the finals versus 100 Thieves in the LCS Championship to note—they could use something or someone that brings out the best in each of these players while keeping overall play sharp. This is no knock onto the current interim head coach, Jonas “Kold” Andersen. He’s doing great for the position given to him. 

Take 100 Thieves, for example. The team was solid during the Lock In tournament and the spring split but were missing a key ingredient. Although they got two, one in the form of mid-laner Flix “Abbedagge” Braun and the other in head coach hire Bok “Reapered” Hang-gyu, it is undeniable what a head coach like Reapered brought to the table. 100 Thieves tightened up their play, fewer mistakes, more cohesiveness, and a sense of direction, something they sorely needed. It was all due to a stable head coaching hire. This is what Team Liquid needs and should work on getting in the offseason. Screw player replacements, get a stable head coach and coaching stuff and run it back.



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Cloud9 Never Settles: A Paragon In The LCS

Oshin Tudayan/Riot Games via ESPAT

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

27th Nov 2021 13:39

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