LIVERPOOL were not at the races. Liverpool looked at times like they had forgotten about the races. They weren’t complacent. They were off the pace all over the pitch.
There are very few whose mind and body were what they needed to be. Joe Allen, perhaps, was the only outfield starter who deserved to not be on the losing side. But he couldn’t bring his team-mates with him, each of them toiling, making poor decisions or having a poor touch.
None of them shirked. None of them stopped working. But graft isn’t enough. Quality needs to be present.
Newcastle United on the other hand were very much at the races. They were aggressive and sharp, got about Liverpool, scented blood and kept about them.
Newcastle United, arguably, played their best game of the season. Liverpool, arguably, played their worst.
This game was concerning all week. It was very much going to go one of two ways. Way one was that Liverpool would be superior and Newcastle United, team and support, would be pulled apart at the seams.
Way two was what we saw. Newcastle United remain United and grow into the game, improve and believe in their game plan as it works for them. Believe in one another. Stay alive in the game and get a scruffy one to defend.
Liverpudlians’ caps should be doffed to Newcastle United. They played muscular football. They showed the value of togetherness. They left their foot in. If they keep showing that aggression, if they retain that certainty, they will be alright.
So will Liverpool.
Before we came back from this last international break I was concerned. Lord, I was discouraged. It was a run of fixtures that were no laughs and it was intense. Are you discouraged now? Of course it is hard. It is meant to be hard. If it was easy managers wouldn’t be sacked and players wouldn’t be heroes. Do you want it to be easy? Of course you don’t.
Liverpool have learned and will keep learning. Learn from dealing with that heaviness of a pitch. Learn from dealing with this new adversity of going away from home and the opposition taking a point before kick off.
They will learn that the Christian Benteke-Roberto Firmino experiment may well need games that aren’t league games to work on.
They will learn that just because James Milner is always willing doesn’t make him the ball. They will learn that Jordon Ibe being the man most likely is a bad thing not a good thing. And furthermore it is unfair on him.
They will learn that Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana live their lives on the half turn and you tend to need one of them. And they may well learn that two up front has a lot to recommend it; perhaps for 10 minutes we could have seen the frustrating Benteke and Sturridge in tandem rather than the scything substitution however deserved it might have been.
Some doors need to be kicked down. Liverpool should be kicking doors down, not mooching through any half. The most important thing that needs to be sorted is this. A campaign depends upon it, a campaign where anything remains possible.
But the day should belong to Newcastle United. A side that scrapped for everything but also smart and forensic, made it difficult to live lives on the half turn and took their chances when they turned up. Newcastle United better than their points on the board.
No one should be discouraged. There is still so much season left.
Get goalscorers on the pitch where possible. Keep enjoying it. There are no other options.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo