The Benching of Zven and Alphari — We Need To Talk
Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Barney “Alphari” Morris should have never been benched by Cloud9 and Team Liquid, respectively. There’s no other way to put it. The fact that it all transpired in just a couple of days made it all the more surreal. We’re talking about two of the best teams in North America and some of the very best — if not the best — players in their respective positions.
These are your biggest catalysts, the MVPs, the individuals you need to stand a chance of winning. The fact that both were demoted despite wrecking house back in Spring is, in short, as baffling as it gets. Now, we still don’t know why they’ve been benched. Frankly, that’s a problem. At least in the case of Cloud9, we can hypothesize and conjure up a thousand different theories. Jack Etienne is known for playing 4D chess with his lineups and selling individual players (or grouping them up and selling them as a package deal) when the “right” moment arises.
Maybe that’s what’s at play here? Or, perhaps, Zven had a fallout of some sort after Cloud9 failed to deliver at the most recent Mid-Season Invitational. The thing is, we simply don’t know. We can go as haywire with our assumptions as possible, and that’s never a good thing. According to Cloud9’s strategic coach Max Waldo, Zven will probably remain in LCS Academy for the rest of the split. Just writing such a sentence makes one feel… strange. As if something seriously isn’t right with our timeline. That, in turn, probably means he’ll miss out on Worlds. If you’re scratching your head right now, know that you’re not in the minority — the whole community feels the same way.
But at least we have a time frame of sorts. In the case of Alphari, we didn’t even get that much.
Alphari — The Biggest Enigma of the Summer Split
We’re all well aware that Alphari is amongst the very best players in North America. He received the second-most votes for MVP of the Split and was the de facto best top laner in the LCS. Heck, he made it look easy, despite facing some fairly stiff competition! Simply put: this exceptional Welshman is on a whole ‘nother level, and there’s not a top laner in North America who can truly and consistently blow for blow.
And now he’s warming the bench.
Was his benching the result of him being unprofessional? Hard to work with? Petty? Was there any aggression involved or fisticuffs? We don’t know. Odds are, we won’t find any time soon. We did get a blanket PR statement from Liquid’s head coach (and renaissance man) Joshua “Jatt” Leesman, but there was very little substance behind it. One thing did stick out, and it was the statement that this roster change wasn’t a “spur of the moment” kind of decision. Whether or not such a statement was made to (ineffectively) calm the community’s anger is up to you to decide. In any case, it only added fuel to the fire.
Moreover, Alphari’s tweet indicates that he — let’s put it euphemistically— heavily disagrees with Jatt’s view on things.
And perhaps people wouldn’t be as outraged as they are had the Team Liquid coaching staff been upfront. The way TL and Cloud9 have handled things makes them look like the bad guys. So, are they? Have these two exceptional players — both of which are known quantities — been wronged in any way? Or has something transpired behind closed doors that really shouldn’t be revealed to the public?
We’re all dying to find out, and we’re also depressed about the fact that we won’t be able to witness Alphari and Zven dominate over the coming weeks and months. Just how big of an impact these changes will have on Team Liquid and Cloud9 remains to be seen, but it feels like these perennial titans will struggle a lot more to reach/defend the LCS throne than anyone expected coming into the second half of 2021.
Not a Good Look
Players getting benched is nothing new. It happens all the time. Still, we all think of benching as something reserved for the worst players or those who happen to be slumping — the well-performing ones are never in danger as they’re the driving force behind the team’s success.
Moreover, not providing more information into the very nature of these — one might say scandalous — benchings is a huge oversight on Cloud9 and Team Liquid’s part. They don’t necessarily owe us an explanation, but they cannot expect our support when we’ve been wholly excluded from this whole process. Trust is a two-way street, and these two perennial organizations have yet to deliver.