Team Liquid has undergone a myriad of changes throughout the first month of the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split. All in all, Team Liquid has started seven different players in its first 11 games of summer, and last Thursday, June 24, head coach Joshua "Jatt" Leesman announced his sudden resignation from the team. Mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen joined Inven Global to share his thoughts on Team Liquid's recent changes.
It's been a while, Jensen. How was your mid-season break?
Hmmm...what did I do?...Oh yeah, I pretty much played League, yeah. It wasn't too interesting, I basically just played a lot of League. *laughs*
Do you find that the amount of League of Legends someone plays during a break is directly related to how close they finish to the top placing?
I think it just depends on the person. Some of us didn't play as much as others, but generally speaking, we all played a good amount. I don't know, I didn't really think about it that way, but in the past, I would definitely think that way.
I would be like 'Wow, I was so close. What do I need to do differently this time? I need to try harder, I need to play more,' but I don't really have the same mentality as I did many years ago before I won any finals. I for sure used to think that if I had just played more, I could have done one thing differently and it would have changed the outcome.
I don't know, I think I have a larger perspective on what kind of things went wrong now, and I don't put as much blame on myself nowadays as I would in the past when it comes to losses. I just play because I want to play.
That sounds like a more well-measured perspective than before. What are your thoughts on Team Liquid's spring now that you've had time to reflect on it? It was impressive to see you come close to winning the finals without your starting jungler.
There were a lot of unfortunate things that happened, especially with Santorin's health condition. It made things a bit more complicated, so we had to use Armao and had barely any scrims with him, so there were a lot of problems due to lacking synergy. In a way, it made things a lot harder in the Mid-Season Showdown. We still had a decent showing, but what happened is unfortunate, and there are a lot of 'what if's?'.
I don't know, I try not to dwell on it too much because I can't really change what happened. I guess there were always be the feeling of 'What if we had more time with Armao?' or 'What if Santorin's thing wouldn't have happened?' because things could have gone differently, for sure. However, it's not really worth putting energy into, so I just try to look forward.
Has Santorin been dealing with this health issue for the entire time it's been public, or just intermittently?
Yeah, he's had these health issues for quite some time now. He's talking to people who can try to help him or identify the cause to get himself feeling better. He's the type of guy who doesn't try to complain about these health things too much and he tries to play through it, but apparently, it got worse in the last week or two.
Santorin talked to management about it and they heavily encouraged him to take a break. They told him, 'The most important thing is that you are in good condition for playoffs. We need you to focus on your health and get better.' It's something that's been plaguing him for a long time, and hopefully, it's something that can get resolved sooner rather than later. However, it's also something that could maybe take months.
We have to be realistic about it and just prepare for the situation we're in. Overall, I hope for him, and for the team in general, that this is something that can get resolved fast, but since it's been going on for so long, it's hard to say what's going to happen.
Above all, I hope he gets better, but you're right, it's hard to determine a timeline. Alphari is also set to return tomorrow, but what has it been like having Jenkins make his LCS debut?
There's no doubt he's a good individual player. He also has a bit of a different champion pool than Alphari, and in a sense, he plays a different style within the team as well. However, he's obviously inexperienced when it comes to playing the game at a high level.
There are definitely things we are trying to work on with him when it comes to the overall game perspective, but he's super talented. Even if Alphari comes back, Jenkins deserves to be in the LCS. There's no question of his talent. I think Jenkins is better than most of the LCS top laners right now.
TL mentioned in a press conference earlier this week that Alphari would return but Jenkins would stay. Is the plan to utilize the different styles of both top laners in a six-man roster?
Honestly, I can't really say too much about what the plan is for when Alphari comes back because to be honest, I'm not exactly sure. We're probably running a six-man roster, but as for all of the details, I'm not sure myself. Something's going to happen. It is true that they have different champion pools and there could for sure be potential when it comes to different styles in terms of how we want to play depending on who we're playing etc. Again, I'm not sure, so we'll just have to see.
Perhaps the most surprising change was Jatt re-signing as TL's head coach. Has the team's competitive approach changed with the temporarily augmented coaching staff?
I mean, we don't really change too much in regards to how we see the game, but I guess it's been a bit of a change to how we run the team and how we operate during practice hours. When it comes to drafting and those kinds of things, nothing really changed, but I would say it's a mild change overall. It does feel like there's kind of a piece missing. We probably need to fill that spot, but we'll have to see what happens.
When Jatt announced his resignation, he made it clear that it was solely his decision. Was it something that the players expected? Were you notified of the changes before the press conference?
He talked with us one-on-one the day before and, at least to me, explained things from his perspective. I'm sure that everything that's been happening the past couple of months has been very stressful for him and hard on him.
There's obviously other things that happened that aren't public and probably never will be, I guess. Jatt did what he thought was best for him, and I can understand it and sympathize with it. I really hope the best for him. It was a crazy month, for sure, specifically for him. We'll have to see if he makes a statement or something, but I wish him the best.
As a veteran player, you are familiar with these types of situations. Do you feel responsible of playing the role of stabilizer in the team culture for the less experienced players on Team Liquid's starting roster?
In a way, yes, but it feels like everyone kind of understands that the main goal is obviously winning. That's what we're trying to stay focused on while not letting other things distract us too much. The whole situation has been a lot to take in — maybe more for some people than others, I guess — but we're always doing the best we can to try to win.
I appreciate your honesty in addressing these topics, Jensen. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the Team Liquid fans?
Thank you guys for supporting us. I know it's been pretty crazy from the outside, but honestly, things have been okay from my perspective. It's all fine. We're trying our best to win and we're not letting these things distract us too much. Regardless of what happens with the roster and whether Santorin will be able to come back or not, I think that this roster has a lot of potential, for sure.
There are definitely no excuses for me. I think we are a really f*****g good team, and we are here to prove it.
All images by: Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT
Disclaimer: An earlier iteration of this interview featured a misquote of Jensen that said 'can't sympathize' when it should say 'can sympathize.' This mistake has been rectified and corrected in the text.