Liquid’s Steve Arhancet: “Andy and TSM Like to Talk Shit Without a Lot of Results Recently”
Team Liquid has perhaps one of the best redemption stories told in recent LCS memory. After being a juggernaut for 4 splits in a row, they failed this spring, finishing dead last on the table. Now with the addition of Tactical to replace the departing Peter “Doublelift” Yilang, they managed to finish the split 15-3, a complete reversal of fortune, and even have both the Summer MVP title in CoreJJ, as well as coaching staff of the split with the addition of Joshua “Jatt” Leesman to their staff from broadcasting.
Now they’ve got their eyes set on the prize, after clinching their spot at Worlds – prove that NA can be a threat internationally. But first, they want another trophy for their trophy case, and to extend their winning streak against Team SoloMid, which has been ongoing for several years.
Esports Talk had the chance to sit in on the Team Liquid Pre-Worlds 2020 press conference with coaching staff and ownership to hear their impressions on the upcoming competition, the LCS Finals, and more importantly, trying to further humiliate Team SoloMid and their former ADC Doublelift.
“Andy and TSM Like to Talk Shit Without a Lot of Results Recently”
For Jatt, for your first split as Head Coach for Team Liquid, how do you reflect on this split, and what lessons have you learned from being a coach?
Jatt Leesman, Team Liquid Head Coach: So far reflection has been pretty positive. I’m happy that I took the leap and moved from the broadcast side to the competitive side. I’d say results have been pretty good so far. 15-3 in the regular season is obviously great, and I’m really happy for the people here. Steve, Kane, Dodo, the players for accepting me into their family, which they’ve been for a bunch of successful splits.
I would also say that I’m trying not to reflect too much because we still have two best of fives to win that will set us up as good as possible to win worlds. Pretty heads down on prepping for this weekend, then going to worlds.
What do you think of the new Worlds format, from a coaching perspective, how do the changes effect how you go into preparing for Worlds?
Jatt, Head Coach Team Liquid: You’re asking what the impact of the playin change is, yeah, compared to last year’s? I’d say this play-in stage puts more importance on individual games because the top seed in each group doesn’t even have to win a best of five. It’s also gonna be really dependent on the draw because the groups have been set up knowing that – keep in mind, I’ve only glanced at the format, I’ll dive in and make sure I understand before we go there. There are three major region teams, two of them will be in one group, one in the other. So you’re kind of fingers crossed that you;re gonna be alone in one of those groups. But I will say that even if you’re in the one team group, there’s going to be more importance on individual games due to the single round robin, and I think the seeding is incredibly important.
Steve, how much of your vision for Team Liquid did you achieve this split and what are your expectations for Worlds?
Steve Arhancet, CEO/Co-Owner Team Liquid: Our expectations going into Summer Split were to have a full rebound from Spring. It was such a disappointing finish after winning back to back to back Championships to finish last. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but we needed to make some changes heading into the Summer Split. Sometimes those changes don’t work out, but in this case it did. We’ve not only been able to accomplish the best regular season record we’ve ever had, we have really gelled as a team with Tactical filling some pretty big shoes with Peter (Doublelift’s) departure. To see the motivation and the results from all of that with our end of season standings and what will hopefully happen, another championship this weekend. We’ve surpassed our expectations for the summer.
As for Worlds, our eyes are set on a World Championship, and that is possible — I know it is. We have the right talent, the right leadership, the right coaching structure. I know that there is a lto of sentiment about the region not being so strong (NA) but we;’re gionna show them we’re gonna be ready, and we’re gonna give it everything we’ve got. We’re aiming for a CHampionship.
Eduardo: Right now all eyes are on Tactical since he’s the rookie. How are you gonna manage Tactical being a rookie in NA, but also on the Worlds stage, which is 10x more intimidating than a LCS title?
Jatt: Honestly I’ll just let him be him. That’s something he’s been incredible at. From the very first game in Summer Split, all the way back to the games we played in scrims before the split. He’s a young player, he’s got a ton of talent, he’s got teammates who trust him. And as you can see, he doesn’t get rattled that much. Even game four last weekend, we were down 8k gold in a 5v3 in the base, and let us try and win that before game five. So the biggest thing I can do is put trust in him, believe in him, help give him confidence. I couldn’t be happier with his performance as a rookie, it doesn’t feel like that so I’m just gonna continue to treat him that way.
This is a question for everybody, Steve just touched on it briefly there. Does the chatter around LCS not being as strong this year and the results from last year’s worlds being disappointing – does that put extra pressure on Team Liquid to perform well?
Arhancet: You know I think there’s going to be pre existing sentiment around how NA is as a region. Honestly its deserved based on our previous performances. But it can’t be debilitating or diminish any possibility of NA becoming world Champions. Whatever team that may be. If that’s Team Liquid, I think that’s possible, you have to believe that. I think there’s been a lot of changes in NA that have been really good about improving the likelihood associated with that. Thinking back to before franchising, the investment that teams were making into coaching staff and analysts. We have a team of 13 on the staff side just for League. That’s analysts, coaches, Head Coaches. We have developers now working on software that we use to track information and data that we use to teach our players in ways that were never possible. We also have the talent. We have previous World Champions on our roster. All signs point to it.
I know that we’re up against that community perception. It’s all still possible. It’ll feel really good if we’re up on stage holding the trophy, because that would prove it. Up until then, we’re dreaming, hoping, anticipating, planning. But I do think there’s been substantial changes in the direction of NA doing well at Worlds.
Jatt: Adding on to that, I think the pressure is the same, at least that’s how we’re treating it internally. Looking at the format changes, there’s no reason for us to come in as the favorite from a public perception standpoint. But internally it changes nothing, you still have to win the next game in front of you. I agree with what Steve said, we just need a mindset that it’s not lost before it starts. A lot of the conversation I’ve seen around the community has pointed towards that. But that’s not how sports work – upsets happen. It’s about maximizing your chances, believing in yourself and going for it. That’s what we’re gonna do.
Parkes Oakley, Inven: Jatt, you’ve been a caster for awhile, what’s the biggest thing you learned this split interacting with the players vs. your understanding of them based on talking about them and crafting narratives?
Jatt: I’d say it’s hard to point out any one thing in particular but I guess one thing I’ve noticed at least with this team is how effectively a lot of the players can cut out noise. I think a lot of times as a caster or someone who;s trying the big picture and provide the best storyline for the viewers. You’re paying attention to so much stuff. How much focus that can happen behind the scenes regardless of the conversation that’s happening outside really zeroing in on exactly why a player is winning or losing and how much that can actually differ greatly from the public conversation is just really apparent being on the inside. Knowing what we need to do to find success, how we find success, and then contrasting that with the conversation. Don’t wanna go into too many details obviously we have our own plans on how we improve, how we win, and how we plan on moving forward.
But that’s been a really interesting thing to kind of passively take in from the inside as a coach.
Travis Gafford: Obviously a lot of people will be talking about the Doublelift matchup with Tactical and all the drama there. But Steve, for a long time you and Andy Dinh have had a rivalry and you guys will be facing off. It does feel like this is the first time in a while that there’s a big concern possibly for you and Team Liquid? Is this the moment when TSM returns and are you nervous at all about what could happen there and maybe how much gloating Andy does afterwards?
Arhancet: [laughs] Andy talks a lot of shit without much of a record recently to back up any of it. There’s of course a lot of great TSM fans and the TSM organization, but a lot of that is living in the past. There haven’t been any present accomplishments that are notable. We made a very important change to the roster, and Tactical has stepped the fuck up. He has been incredible and fearless. I’m proud of his accomplishment so far. Win or lose. I don’t know the exact stat, but I think TSM hasn’t beaten us in awhile, it’s been a long time. I don’t think that’s going to change this weekend. I hope they give it everything they’ve got. And I hope for a great series for the community and the fans. But no, not nervous. I think if anything, looking forward to talking some shit after we win on social media.
Dustin Steiner, Esports Talk: How big of an impact playing from your facility has had versus playing on stage at the LCS?
Jatt: I’d say it’s hasn’t been – I can’t speak to exactly how it is playing in the LCS studio, but playing at the facility has definitely helped from playing fully remote, which is what happened at the end of Spring Split and happened for a lot of our practice beforehand.
We’ve been able to simulate somewhat of an LCS environment here. Obviously, the Alienware training facility is really well equipped with a practice room where the guys can go in and try and get in the zone, there’s going to always be that difference of not having the vibrations and presence of a live crowd there, but I’d say in terms of the difference between scrim energy and stage energy, we’re still able to hit that in our practice room.
It’s hard to say for sure before comparing directly to when we go on stage but I’d say it hasn’t had a huge impact on our performance or even the performance of the League.
For Kane, strategically when you’re building the playstyle for this team, some people might focus more on building for the really long term, even thinking internationally what playstyle will hold up, how do we get ready for that, or sometimes it’s a little more short-sighted than that. How did you find the balance to design the playstyle of this team and what were your priorities?
Kane: For strategically, in the past with Liquid, I think we have been focusing on our matches that are about to come up that weekend. I usually don’t focus too far ahead internationally. For example, I’m focusing on the matches against TSM and the finals this weekend instead of thinking about worlds. I think that’s been successful in the past for Team Liquid and making sure we focus on what’s next for us and winning those matches. We make sure we have the momentum that way to keep winning and keep improving.