Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen has never been afraid to tell it how it is, and he did exactly that when he sat down with Dexerto to talk Team Liquid’s struggles in LCS 2021 Summer: “Right now, we are not one of the top teams, no.”
The Dane’s sentiment isn’t exactly a shocking one. Of the top LCS teams, Team Liquid has suffered the most between Spring and Summer, on the Rift and outside their pro LoL games.
TL’s campaign has been rife with challenges.
First there was the issues surrounding Barney “Alphari” Morris, and the Welshman’s benching. That had a particular sting for the star-studded TL team, who had funneled much of their focus into the top side in Spring. Then, more recently, head coach Joshua “Jatt” Leesman was sacked over that same Alphari benching, and Santorin took a leave of absence.
On the Rift, things haven’t been any better.
Liquid have failed to post a 3–0 week yet in Summer, and the trio of LCS leaders keep slowly, surely inching away from Spring’s runners-up.
So, when Jensen sat down with Dexerto at the end of week five, there was a hardened glint hiding behind his eyes. TL had just bowled over FlyQuest — in just 24 minutes, no less — but the Danish star’s mind was still elsewhere.
That elsewhere was the three games before: Team Liquid had failed to handle their important run against C9, TSM, and 100 Thieves. They had ended up emerging 0–3 against their closest rivals, and slid down to a 20–13 record and fourth place. It wasn’t a disaster, Jensen said, but it had given Liquid a reality check.
“We’re not a top LCS team right now,” Jensen claimed. “Small things have changed for us. We need to figure things out, because right now we’re not contenders, no.”
“Practice has been okay, so I thought we were in a good place. We had lost to all the better teams previously, we knew that, but they had been close games, and I don’t think that we had been that much worse than them in the games,” he said.
“I don’t know… I was pretty confident. Those games have made it pretty clear to us that we have a lot that we need to work on and really figure out, right now.”
The obvious place to start, Jensen explains, is TL’s drafts. The pre-game strategies have become “confusing” for many of the players, and a shift back to basics has done more harm than good in a meta where flex picks reign supreme.
“We’ve pretty much just pivoted to things we play, instead of trying to learn overpowered champions or flex picks that we should have,” the Dane admitted.
“That’s something that I think is really important that we work on, like really work on, because it’s the main thing hurting our drafting at the moment. The team hasn’t had the right read on what is really OP, and especially these past two weeks I think we’ve got a bit of a reality check on what the Season 11 meta really is.
Jensen added he didn’t want to just blame the drafts either: “You can always blame drafts, right? We’ve been playing pretty poorly too, which never really helps.”
Liquid’s slide may be solvable with other changes, but Jensen is confident one thing will help the struggling LCS team too: getting their star Welsh top laner back.
“He will for sure help because he understands better how we play,” Jensen explained to Dexerto. “He was the player we focused around the most, and we were a lot more top side focused with Alphari in our roster. It was a comfort thing.
“With Jenkins, he’s quite the opposite. Like, we’re not very good at playing around him and his pressure, and I think we’ve struggled to help him when he needs help. So a lot of time he’s just kind of… left out to dry, in a way, and that makes any game of League of Legends hard when that’s happening on the map.
“Any change like that, taking away a team’s player they play around, will obviously be tough. It means we’re playing the game differently, maybe not snowballing as much as we should… Alphari was really our comfort play style, really.
“But, you know, they’re different players; they have different styles, champs. So it’s on us, until Alphari is back, to find the balance. That’s why we’re struggling.”
One thing Liquid do have, though, is time.
While many other LCS frontrunners are faced with the challenge of keeping their red-hot starts alive in the extended North American league format, Jensen and TL have been handed a “blessing” — they only just passed the halfway mark to playoffs, and still have 12 games under their belts to iron out the kinks.
On top of that, Spring’s carryover record has given Liquid breathing room they may not have had if they were stuck with Summer’s dicey 8–7 run.
“Since the standings are this new format, there’s never really been a feeling of, ‘Oh sh*t, if we don’t win here we’re just f**ked’. That’s a good thing, we have so much time to really solve what’s wrong, and get back to our best,” he explained, and added they’re “already working on it.”
“We’re taking it just one day at a time at the moment. Winning is super important, but we have to get in position to do that as well. And, hopefully, that leads to us being back in form by the end of the regular season. Once we’re in best-of-fives, there’s comfort there.
“We’re in a difficult situation, but once we get to playoffs that changes.
“I think these issues will even make us better. We’re learning and understanding together. I think it makes Liquid a better team, for all of these difficulties.”