THERE are loads of mitigating circumstances. Loads and loads. You know them all and you can even probably include the weather, which Liverpool never got to grips with, and the fact that Martin Skrtel is on the pitch. But, to enjoy ourselves, shall we pretend there aren’t any?
It’s probably the worst ball retention I’ve seen from a Liverpool side since Roy Hodgson was on this patch stinking the joint up.
As a collective, Liverpool could not keep the ball — they couldn’t make it stick. They couldn’t turn and spin. They couldn’t play.
This didn’t take place in a vacuum. As John Gibbons so often says, we press because we think it works. Other sides might come to the same conclusion. Swansea did, and they pressed Liverpool to death in the centre of the park first half.
They played very well. Pedro Chirivella — making his Premier League debut — and Kevin Stewart couldn’t cope; Sheyi Ojo and Jordon Ibe couldn’t help and, for whatever reason, instruction or instinct, Phil Coutinho chose not to. They looked as inexperienced as they are. Weak as kittens and twice as naive.
Liverpool’s side were two footballers adrift, only in the game to be taken out of it. Pulled here and there, no-one to come and sit next to them and make their lives easier.
Swansea scented blood and were rapacious. They got their reward.
Ojo did some business through the game. He looked bright, but he is a footballer likely to spend two or three years on the periphery of games, decorating them occasionally with panache. The issue Ibe has is that he doesn’t look to have the panache while also looking short in so many other areas. The case to persevere with him gets undermined by every game on the pitch. Bournemouth seems a long time ago, strangely, perhaps unfairly for Ibe. It was warmer then. It wasn’t lashing down and freezing for one.
The first half ends as a write off. The second half is in a sense more frustrating. Or more accurately, the five minutes after Liverpool score. The five minutes after Liverpool get one back Skrtel, Lucas, Smith, Stewart and Lovren are disgraceful. Some more so than others but only Clyne — maybe only Clyne across the 90 minutes to be honest — only Clyne emerges from that five minutes with any credit. It was Aston Villa levels of calamity from Liverpool’s men. It was lacking in absolutely everything you want from a red shirt. Sense. Steel. Ambition. Control. Desire. Reactions.
It reduced my brain to an Alan Hansen Match Of The Day list of qualities footballers need. If I didn’t already think Skrtel and Smith were gone, and Lucas was at best going to be a fourth or fifth-choice centre back next season, I would argue it should be a career-changing five minutes.
And the sending off is bloody stupid.
The state of Degsy Lovren next to Martin Skrtel is bigger than most match reviews. I feel sorry for the lads and girls at the grown-up newspapers and websites. To be honest, it could well be bigger than even this nonsense masquerading as creative non-fiction. It may well need a novella. Degsy’s day from the moment he realises it will require him to play centre back next to Martin Skrtel. Shock. Anger. Adjustment to the reality in front of him. Coping. Collapsing. Flashback.
The rest, well Sturridge and Benteke frustrated but the football match mostly took place a mile behind them in real terms. The goalkeeper did alright.
But back to our mitigating circumstances, there has been too much made of them in a sense. The game is when the game is. Cop for it. Gérard Houllier had to. Rafa Benitez had to. The manager has to keep his bounce and his smile. He has to. The other two didn’t if we are frank. No one says it is easy. If it was everyone would be doing it. And yet.
And yet. Behind the scenes I have no doubt the Liverpool manager is already thinking he will need a squad of 28 — he will need more pace, he needs more physicality. Behind the scenes I have no doubt that things will be getting boxed off. Cop for that? Ok, you cop for this.
Thursday more important. Of course. But next season weekends will be everything. Weekends will need to be better against Swansea, Watford, Newcastle/Sunderland, West Brom. Weekends will need to be better.
Get to it. Up the no mitigating circumstances Reds.
Into these. For the purpose of clarity “these” is everyone. Into these.