HELLO 2016-17. I have high hopes for you, you handsome devil.
The journey for me starts in Los Angeles, standing on bleachers, as the sun goes down, surrounded by Liverpool supporters who are so, so pleased to be watching The Reds in person, watching The Reds in California.
That’s a pretty great way to start.
The atmosphere is distinctive, difficult to articulate but that is the gig so I’d best crack on.
The Cali Kop gathered behind one goal yearn for a goal in a strange way. They would all swap any Liverpool goal this evening for one in a competitive game, this is clear. Everyone I have spoken to in Los Angeles only wants to talk about the league. And so it isn’t the yearn that happens week in week out. They are watching Liverpool, our Liverpool, their Liverpool and they just want that moment of being together, in person, watching their Liverpool put the ball in the goal. They want the explosion, the collective joy of what is unquestionably the best thing in football and therefore the anticipation and excitement whenever Liverpool breach Chelsea’s final third is intensely palpable.
It’s the moment before Beyonce comes on. The sound of the rollercoaster ticking up to its apex. It’s curious and infectious. I would strongly recommend it.
They appear to have decided that probably the second best thing in football is slaughtering the referee. There was a lot to slaughter. In a competitive midfield lots of tackles were close to the line but Chelsea received a disproportionate amount of any doubt right up to the point Fabregas lashed a dreadful tackle in on Klavan. He deservedly was sent off. Staggering to throw that out in pre-season, frankly.
The third thing they love is a solid sing song. Hearing the chant about John Terry’s mother sung in a Californian accent made it feel like a lost cut from the Pet Sounds sessions.
There is a great old-school “Liverpool” chant a few times before the game. Hope I get more of that in the forthcoming weeks and months. There is also a lovely fuck off to the Mexican Wave from the Liverpool end.
The shape of both the game and the side is intriguing. Liverpool and Chelsea appeared to be taking it in turns to cede both possession and territory but both were then looking to spring. Liverpool concede a soft one from a set piece and then find themselves unfortunate when a goal is disallowed for a marginal offside.
Moreno remains a little deeper than last season. Up front Liverpool are fluid. Mane and Coutinho interchanging and even ending up on the same flank. Mane especially filling the space Firmino vacates.
Mane is absolutely electric. He’s catch-your-breath quick. Ejaria also impressed in amongst the first side. He may occasionally gild the lily but that will disappear from his game over time.
It was fascinating to see the changes leading to Milner playing right back. He and Lallana linked up well. There is every chance he pops up there a few times this season. It may not be the most fun for him but he has a load to offer The Reds there. Henderson made a difference in centre midfield, shifting the ball quicker.
Ojo excited too. Liverpool feel pacier. It was a long campaign last season but there looks to be an additional spring in wide areas especially. That stride that takes you away, the second stride after a touch.
But there was just a slight lack of cutting edge around the area. The flitting about can work but having a quality pure centre forward is always worth having. The win probably flattered Chelsea. But only probably.
Because the goal yearned for never came. Moves didn’t come off. All that excitement never had that release.
Between shows and sunshine, tailgates that caught the imagination. Between all the chanting and the drinking, I wanted this crowd to get their moment, get their goal. A Liverpool goal to savour.
It never came. It’s been wonderful, Los Angeles. But not all stories get the happy ending they deserve.
Love to all. 2016-17. It can only go one way from here.
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