ARSENAL have you on pins. Before the game we talk about how Arsenal away ties with City as the worst away. Because they have you on pins. Chelsea bludgeon you. United wear you down. But Arsenal and City have you on pins.
They probe. They pen. They ratchet up the tension like that kid on the trike in The Shining. They pull you and push you. They scare you.
Watching it in the boozer. Watching it with lads who know their football. Who talk talk talk their football. Ben Johnson, Frank Doran, Paul Cope, Rob Doran, Andy Heaton, Shaun Rogers (not that one), Paul Johnson, Rob Leighton, Steve Graves. Talk. For the first 10. Talk and talk The Reds through it. Lads who talk like they are playing and good lord above it feels like playing. Get through 10, it feels like 20. Get through 20 and it feels like 60.
Everyone shattered. Everyone goosed. Everyone stressed and strained.
Because Arsenal have you on pins. On pins. They have Gomez on both pins and toast, the step up suddenly a cliff. They stretch you. They stretch The Reds in black.
The Reds in black get to 20, they’ve hit the bar, Arsenal a good goal disallowed, and while the pins haven’t gone anywhere you think, Christ these lads are the better side. The better side.
The Reds in black close down. Emre Can. James Milner. Nathaniel Clyne. They close and work and stint stint stint. The manager in black. Dressed like he is going to a funeral. Every game: maybe he is. Maybe he is.
The Reds in black close down. They grind. Philippe Coutinho. Roberto Firmino. Joe Gomez. Joe Gomez, yet again he grows and grows. Learns and improves.
What else? The important things and the unimportant things. Because the match is the match. The game is the game. Things happen but attitude and application is everything. Heads in hands when Cech saves from Benteke. Heads in hands when Cech saves from Coutinho.
At half time Ben Johnson says this:
“Regardless what happens here, we’ve never gone there and done that. There’s a clear strategy. Everything that wasn’t there last year. Anyone wants to say a thing. Spot on that.”
It was. But second half Arsenal came, Arsenal built and penned again. Arsenal were good. They showed what they had, passes from angles. Passes round corners. Passes and passes. Chances and chances. They played ever so well but Liverpool were resolute and Liverpool were strong and Liverpool worked along the line. Across the pitch.
Arsenal were good. But never better than Liverpool. The important things and the unimportant things. They created chances and Mignolet stood firm. Giroud should score. Sanchez perhaps should score. Arsenal won’t stop and demand all three. They have attitude and application.
So do The Reds in black. The work never stops. The talk never stops. Milner immense and Rossiter solid enough when under pressure. Gomez growing. Moreno demanding. This isn’t about Arsenal but they are good. This is about Liverpool. Liverpool are good. They are good. They will remain good.
They may just be capable of anything, anything at all.
The Reds are coming up the hill.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo