I’LL be honest, I don’t know where I’m going with this. I haven’t got it plotted out. I’m not entirely sure what my point is or if I actually *have* a point. I’m just writing because I bloody have to, because I NEED to talk about Liverpool. Call it a purging, a cleansing, an exorcism. Call it what you want, I just need to get it out of my system.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been as depressed about Liverpool Football Club as I am at the moment. Honestly. Even in the dark days at the end of Souness’ reign (a far worse team than this), even in the utter horror of Hodgson, I don’t think that I felt this lost, this adrift. I could see ends to those, could see change.
At the moment, all I can see is this going on forever and ever and gradually getting worse. We’re sliding and I don’t see anybody arresting that slide any time soon. I don’t see action being taken. I could be wrong and I hope I’m wrong. I don’t feel wrong though.
I looked at the pitch sometime in the second half last night — God knows when, it seemed to last forever, and thought two words: “Mid-table.”
For the first time ever, I looked down at a Liverpool side and thought, “that’s what we are now”. And the worst part? I resigned myself to it, accepted the inevitability that there was no way back, came to terms with the fact that we are now — and probably always will be — ordinary. This is where we are.
I think that’s what last night was. I think last night was a stopping post or a waypoint or a fork in the road. Or something. And then there’s a part of me that hasn’t got a clue what last night was. I think that’s the part that’s writing this.
It wasn’t the team that I expected. In theory, it was stronger. There were more seasoned professionals on the pitch than I expected, more senior players. There wasn’t the emphasis on youth that I expected. It looked like Brendan had decided to go pretty near full strength — strong enough to show that we intended to take care of this Carlisle team, strong enough that we would make a statement that we’re Liverpool and we take things seriously. That’s what I thought. It’s not what I saw, just what I thought.
I expected Bogdan. I got him. Fair enough. Good on the pens and all that. I expected Rossiter and Chirivella to start; both played well enough against Bordeaux to feel that they deserved a start in a lower profile competition than the Europa League.
They wouldn’t, after all, be playing a team that had just drawn with PSG, they’d be playing a team with the worst defensive record in the universe. Or something, I haven’t got the stats. If I were Rossiter, I would understand not getting on the pitch; the way the game unfolded it wouldn’t have been right. I’d possibly want to know how badly James Milner has to play before I get on though. If I were Chirivella? I’d want to know why I couldn’t get onto the bench. Surely the lad deserves that.
Expected Gomez. Started well this season, got a little exposed, taken out of the firing line. Surely this was the game to put him back in that line? Expected Ibe for exactly the same reason. Are these lads better than old fourth division standard? Of course they are, well better. So was that lad with the mad haircut for Carlisle in fairness, didn’t look fourth division. Whole team didn’t.
So I don’t know what Brendan was trying to achieve; play some of the lads that he needs to do the job in the league into something that looks like form? Didn’t work. Sweep away the opposition? Didn’t work. Build confidence? Get the crowd back on side? Did. Not. Work.
I was okay with the formation. The 3-4-3’s cool with me. I was even okay with it dropping to a five at the back when they broke. I get that. I’m okay with that. At times. I quite liked the fact that the three up front was (mostly) a quite flat three rotating those three across the line to take turns being central, being wide. I liked the fact that we were keeping the ball; Ings keeps the ball, Lallana keeps the ball, Allen keeps the ball.
Possession’s good, possession’s cool, I’ll have possession, the other lot don’t score when you’ve got all the possession. I liked the fact that a decent cross into the box gave us a decent header, gave us the lead. I like the fact that we went for a second. Appetite, I like appetite.
What I didn’t like then? We allow an attacker to charge through the middle of the park. Again. We stand off said attacker. Again. We concede. Again. Dejan Lovren is at the heart of the problem. A-bloody-gain. Wish the lad well and all that, hate seeing anyone stretchered off with the oxygen going but he was abject last night. Can’t stand his opponent up, can’t head at the back, can’t head at the front but we keep lumping it to him at corners. Truly terrible. We concede. And then our heads fall off for five minutes and only one team looks like scoring and it’s the team with the lad who looks like a cockerel in the number ten shirt.
What didn’t I like? The lack of speed, of incisiveness, of decision, of sense, of in-game intelligence, of thought. We have two things out there. One is receiving the ball and moving up the pitch so slowly that Carlisle can put every man behind that ball before we hit the halfway line so that they can watch us run round the edge of the box, turning and twisting and turning and twisting and passing and passing and passing and never actually achieving anything at all. And doing it again and again and again and again for two bloody hours.
The other thing is shooting. Shooting all the time. From miles away. Shooting wide and over and over and wide and straight at the keeper who we managed to not actually trouble once all night. Forty eight thousand shots on goal and we didn’t stretch a keeper who plays in the old fourth division once. Coutinho comes on and it appears that his instructions were: “You know that goal you scored, Phil? Do it again. Just keep going until it happens” and “See that Lewandowski lad last night? Five goals in nine minutes? How great would it be if you scored the same goal five times in one game?”
Hitting the same point in the Kop 15 times isn’t the same. I love Phil but I dearly wanted him to stop shooting and actually make something happen. Wanted anyone to make something happen.
Was there anything I liked then? Liked Emre Can, that’s his position. Doesn’t like it there? Keep using the word Beckenbauer at him until he’s convinced. Liked Joe Allen, thought he had a good game. Like Danny Ings. Love Danny Ings. Love Danny Ings more than is seemly for a 51-year-old heterosexual man but there you go.
Danny Ings has become the ‘us on the pitch’ that we need. There’s the passion, there’s the desire, there’s a lad who wants it, really wants it, who gets it. There’s a lad who’ll bleed for the shirt. On his arse after 70 minutes, like. Ran himself out. First name on the team sheet for me.
That’s one thing I know. The only thing I know. Everything else, I just suspect. I suspect that Brendan’s done. I suspect he doesn’t know where he’s going anymore. The fact that he didn’t put himself in front of the cameras last night — whether Gary Mac had been doing all the pre-match media or not, whether Gary had actually run the whole thing last night and it’s all actually down to him — Brendan should be putting himself in front of the cameras and talking about it. He’s the manager, it’s his responsibility. However it was set up, it’s his responsibility. Letting somebody else stand as the face of that game? Shameful that. Soz, Brendan, but there you go.
I don’t know what Liverpool Football Club is anymore. But there’s this as well; I don’t know who WE are anymore. That’s the we in the ground, the 40,000-ish. The die hards who are always there and the guys who got hold of tickets just for that game because there were some who didn’t ‘auto-cup’ the whole thing because, deep dow, they expected all that. I don’t know who that WE, this WE are. We’re split. We’re really split.
There were songs from the Kop, tons of songs to start. There was backing, there was hope and belief and support for the team. There was support for the pens. There was a brief rendition of ‘Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool’ and it sounded half way convincing as though there are some of us who still believe in him. Probably less this morning.
And there was booing. Too much booing. Any booing is too much but last night there was too much of too much. There was booing at the end of extra time. These lads are about to take penalties — IN FRONT OF THE OPPOSITION FANS — and we’re booing them? Really? This is advantageous in what way?
And there’s that whole ‘Who are yer?’ bollocks. Yes, you can claim that the Carlisle fans started it — as they did — and it was a reply but come on?
They’re Carlisle, they’re a small club coming to a big club and taking them to the wire, they get to do that. WE, US, we rise above that. We’re better than that. They’re Carlisle, these are as big as their days get. We’re Liverpool, we win European Cups. We used to win European Cups. And leagues. Seems so long ago now. The Suarez season seems so long ago, the glory feels like ancient history. We’re Liverpool, we exist to win things, we win European Cups. We used to win European Cups; that’s who we were.
Who are we now? Haven’t a clue. Don’t think anybody has. Maybe that’s my point.
Maybe the point is there isn’t a point anymore.
Pic: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo