Opinion: Antwerp should be shox's boiling point with Liquid
French legend Richard “shox” Papillon joined Liquid at the tail end of 2021, with many expecting the driving force of his worth to this team to be the experience he brings. Not only has shox enjoyed a tenured career in European CS, during which he won many notable events, including a Major title, but with that he offers the experience of winning in the most intense moments of the game, something that Liquid has historically proven to struggle with. From the start, this move seemed to be a match made in heaven for both parties.
Beyond that, shox’s outspoken willingness to work with young talent came as a bonus with tier-one rookie Josh “oSee” Ohm also recently joining the roster. These positives headlined the potential that the acquisition of shox would bring to the roster. Although shox may be providing important information to his teammates offline, the in-server performances for himself, as well as the team results, have been far below fan and organizational expectations.
The newest Liquid lineup has a current map record of 27-19, with notable losses to teams such as Complexity, Movistar Riders, and paiN throughout the year. shox has also missed the mark individually throughout this time, as he currently sits last in performance on the entire team with a 0.88 K/D ratio and 0.96 rating. Although we have seen rather sporadic highs and lows for the Frenchman with Liquid, his recent showing at the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown was far and away the worst of the bunch. In the upset and elimination loss to paiN, shox was nowhere to be found in any of the three maps. He netted less than fifteen frags in all three maps, despite all of them going over 25 rounds. shox finished the series with a 0.60 K/D ratio, 53.6 ADR, and a 0.65 rating. Although the BLAST showing was a particularly bad example, shox has still missed more than he has hit in events for Liquid so far.
With Liquid seemingly lacking firepower against even domestic competition, the gap between them and the world’s best has widened abroad, while their Americas compatriots have begun closing the gap at home. Complexity AWPer Paytyn “junior” Johnson was unafraid to proclaim his team’s place above Liquid at EPL S15 just weeks after narrowly besting them in the PGL Americas RMR Open Qualifiers. Liquid has lost their luster as a true contender internationally and has been unable to prove themselves to be a better team than Americas rival FURIA with these up-and-down results. With the Major looming, Liquid is one of many teams in the professional scene that should consider making changes if a great Major run is not achieved. With that hypothetical in mind, the first person on the chopping block should be shox.
With the star trio of Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, Keith “NAF” Markovic, and Josh “oSee” Ohm in form, as well as in-game leader Nick “nitr0” Cannella playing at a higher rating than he was prior to his departure in 2020, all eyes are on shox to improve in individual performance to help better piece together the proper Liquid product. After a Major, it is inevitable that teams see roster rotations and sometimes outright shuffles. With teams expected to make moves after failing to qualify at the Major or performing poorly in Antwerp, Liquid should keep all options open if they fall under the latter category.
As it stands, there are too many options across the professional landscape to be content with settling for a player with as little impact as shox is currently offering, and that will surely become more true after the Major. All things considered, shox should be in the hot seat with Liquid's all-important run in the PGL Antwerp Challengers Stage now just a few days away.