I HAVE spent a lot of time recently thinking about Roald Dahl and his sheer unapologetic brilliance.
There’s an attitude to what Dahl wrote. It is something about being determined to be awkward and ungainly. That being those things is simultaneously something to be, something to desire and exploit — a life to live but occasionally something to mock. Huge characters. Witches, Friendly Giants, chocolate factory owners. Words. Frobscottle. Crodsquinkled. Vermicious Knids.
Miss Trunchbull grabbing children by the hair and swirling them round. Veruca Salt. Mike Teevee. Danny, the Champion of the World.
I can’t stop thinking about Dahl. Him taking an enormous universe and making it bigger. Every sentence expanding brains, young brains at that.
The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar, the man who can see through cards and gave all his winnings to charity.
Klopp is like a Dahl character. In games like today’s — dull, frankly — he’s compelling. Bigger than the pitch in front of him. Bigger than the players. He’s outsized. Enthralling and ridiculous. Miss Turnbull swirling underperforming squad players round his head. Gentle and charismatic, switching to larger than life fury. He could be drawn by Quentin Blake. His body angular. His face generous to characterisation.
Since he arrived, much of this campaign, in which Liverpool have finally finished eighth, has been obscured by these features, these explosions, this charisma. You’ve seen him get more from many of these players than seemed plausible. He’s given lads a chance. But 10 per cent more doesn’t become enough. Willing but limited. Smith labouring at full back an example. He isn’t alone.
Generally, it isn’t enough. You can fill your own mitigating circumstances in at your own pace but eighth isn’t good enough in these parts. Wednesday night is a dream to blow into our heads through a trumpet but a dream that needs to become a constant reality; needs to become bread and butter. It isn’t a difficult path to make it bread and butter. Liverpool finished 11 points off second. Practically nothing in real terms.
Today though emphasised that doing that and having quality in other tournaments will be difficult. The only side above us whose season hadn’t finished mid-April for better or worse is Manchester United. And they will be underwhelmed with their finish and points total. This is a league which takes its toll. Which knocks lumps out of you.
Today Liverpool earned their point with graft and the moment of purest quality in the game. Ibe doing what has been too fleeting. Running at them and finishing. It is his first league goal for Liverpool. Suspect it will be his last but today isn’t the day for that.
Some of those lads will not play for Liverpool again. I hope they have enjoyed the chocolate factory. I hope they have taken the sheer life out of the giant peach. Because what else is it, this thing, if it isn’t life enriching?
Wednesday to come for a different set of Reds broadly speaking. Wednesday that defines a season and defines careers. Wednesday, either way a milestone on a journey. Liverpool in the great glass elevator. Where shall we stop? Milner, Can, Sturridge and Lovren will have a lot to say about that.
So will Klopp. Screaming and shouting. Kissing and cuddling. Business to do but it can never be too business-like. Never in a million years. It is more. It is life.
At the final whistle a visibly upset Martin Skrtel approaches us. He claps almost tentatively. Kloppo grabs him. Hugs him. In that moment loves him, just loves him more than you would think possible. Marks him as his when he is leaving Liverpool presumably at Klopp’s behest. But this. This thing. These lads. Us. All the us. All the Reds. Be happy that you got this, Martin. Be happy that we have this, Reds. Be happy in this moment. Full with love, enormous Quentin Blake-drawn love. The opposite of the Grand High Witch.
Jürgen, the Champion of the World.
Just lovely, I want someone to read me that when I’m lying in my bed tonight. A fitting touchstone to the final scene that awaits
So Adam Bogdan’s a keeper as written by Lemony Snicket then by this logic. Let’s never speak of him again.
Also, Arsenal 2nd as the music stops? What a shithouse league it’s been this season. Truly dreadful from almost top to bottom.
Couldn’t agree more… South fucking Hampton ahead in the table? They did an Aston villa level job in the first half last month yet somehow won that one. How on earth? Crazy league…
And Could Herr Klöpp tempt from Leicester, Fantastic Mr.Fuchs?
Wonderful writing, sir.
Great.. Eloquent as ever Neil, you should write a novel..
Cheers for all the reviews during the season
Really enjoy your take on things & at times astonished that you can produce such coherent pieces so quickly after the event,
Not fair to tag as the most eloquent of a brilliant group of scribes performing for our pleasure, as each is excellent in his own way. Not fair but that was my reaction today’s piece. Playful, cerebral, joyful and wise. I believe you may have topped everything you have served up for us to-date. I am in awe of your imaginative leaps and pirouettes. Thank you, thank you!
Lovely article Neil, illuminating what was almost a non-event.
When people point to our league position though, I will continue to bang the injury drum. I can’t remember a season like it from that regard. And though people keep pointing to Klopp’s demands as a reason for their continual occurrence throughout the season, many of them were simply bad luck – Sturridge colliding with Ibe in training, Henderson’s initial foot injury followed by his weird, recurring heel issues and Origi in the derby are three examples that had absolutely nothing to do with what our manager asks of the players.
It’s absolutely no coincidence that our best run of league form and the defeats of Man Utd and Dortmund in the EL came when we had most (but still not all) of our best players available.
I think there’s even actually an argument to be made that our squad is only inferior to Man City and possibly Arsenal in this league. Leicester barely used a squad as they had literally zero injuries during the season, which is simply unsustainable luck, and spurs were almost as fortunate with fitness. Meanwhile we had to do things like get Caulker in as emergency cover when we had virtually no defenders left, or play Firmino as a lone striker for months on end as he was our one fit attacker. Lately it’s only been both our first choice centre mids absent.
It simply can’t be as bad next season, and we’ve shown enough of what we can do with a real first XI to make me very excited about the coming season.
I had hoped for last eight of the Europa and a finish within 6 points of 4th when Klopp arrived, which has been achieved.
A Europa victory would be an utterly sublime achievement, highlighting the error in Rodgers appointment.
I now hope Benteke, Mignolet and Skyrtl are jettisoned.
Top 8 for the 54th consecutive season. Not bad all told…