LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 6, 2016: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson celebrates scoring the second goal against Barcelona during the International Champions Cup match at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by Xiaoxuan Lin/Propaganda)

SHALL we call that a score draw then? As two performances go, you won’t see a bigger contrast all season — or at least I hope so. As good as the Reds played on Saturday against Barcelona, they were just as bad on Sunday against Mainz. If we are going to treat Saturday as a great performance, is it also fair to treat Sunday as a poor one or should we allow for the obvious mitigating circumstances?

To be honest, I haven’t got a clue. I’m sat on the couch trying to answer this question with what writers would call ‘writer’s block’ and what I would call ‘block’, watching the synchronised diving with no sound and listening to Christine and the Queens. So far the Chinese lads are synchronising the shit out of their dives, the Russians look like they are under house arrest and the Brazilian lads look to have a cob on because it’s cloudy. Diving insight, that — someone ask the BBC if they want me to fly over to do a bit of the old analysis.

So far, while trying to think about the Reds, I have thought about the following:

  • How much better would this diving competition be if, in every round, they had to put on an extra item of clothing picked out of a big massive tombola by one of the judges to the extent that by the sixth round they have got a shirt, kecks, boots, a waistcoat, a duffle coat and a top hat taped to their chins to make sure it stays on their heads
  • Why have all of the divers got dead little towels? Seriously, they are like flannels
  • Who is judging these lads and how the frigging hell do you get to do that for a living? What do you want to be when you grow up? A synchronised diving judge, mate. What kind of answers did they give when they went to see the careers advisor in school? What are you interested in? Synchronisation, sir. Do you like swimming? No. Ok, let me run the results on my computer.
  • How much better would it be if you had one big juicehead diver and one dead little fat one, like Danny Devito and Arnie on Twins? Surely they would get points for being sound?
  • Why do Americans like fist-bumping so much?
  • Who would be in the Liverpool team if we had to lash a synchronised team in? First name on the team-sheet, no doubt about it, Albie Moreno. He would probably be here representing Spain if he could have got the time off. Who else though? I’m going for Markovic. Glorious spring, indifferent almost passive stance on the diving board — perfect execution.

STANFORD, USA - Saturday, July 23, 2016: Liverpool's Lazar Markovic during a training session in the Laird Q. Cagan Stadium at Stanford University on day one of the club's USA Pre-season Tour. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Right, sorry, where was I? If I’m honest, I thought both games at the weekend were pretty identical. Both featured sides who were slightly less focused, slightly more tired and who really would have quite liked an amble about in the sun and were a bit put out by the other team’s insistence on treating it like a proper game. Both matches had one team who played at a much greater intensity and pace and played really well. The Reds played out opposite roles in each game.

Should we treat the Barcelona result and performance as a sure=fire sign that we are now one of the greatest teams in the league? No, we shouldn’t. It was a friendly, against a side who are a week behind us in fitness terms and who didn’t really relish facing up to what the Reds were dishing out.

Does that mean we aren’t going to be great this year? Of course it doesn’t, as there was so much to be excited by in the performance. The growing understanding between Degsy Lovren and The Klav was great to see — as was the Klav’s performance in general.

The understanding of the team without the ball looked much better, much more disciplined with the players showing just as much willingness to work back towards their own goal as to press in packs in the opposition half. It was great to see, as was Jürgen Klopp’s assertion after the match that he wasn’t happy with certain aspects of the defensive side of our game.

We kept a clean sheet against Barcelona and the manager is picking holes in the defensive performance and flagging up issues that need improvement — boss that, isn’t it? The exciting nature of our play on the break and the movement and willingness for lads to get into the box sets the season up pretty nicely and I can’t think of a side I would want to face more than Arsenal on Sunday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMpDJ88o8rA

So if the Barcelona result doesn’t automatically mean we are going to win the league does the Mainz game mean we are destined to be let down this season by inadequate away performances against hungrier teams than us? No, of course it doesn’t — it’s frankly a ridiculous question but there are elements of the performance and game that are worth considering.

The first point to note is how important the players’ attitude, tempo and work-rate is going to be this year. If we rock up trying to play with six men ahead of the ball and are not quite on it you can see us getting turned over in a similar manner to Sunday’s game. If the pressing is not quite sharp enough, or we are chewing the ball in possession, or we think it is too easy, like we did on Sunday, teams will be able to exploit the space left in front of the centre halves and get a direct route to our goal.

I don’t think this formation or approach will allow us to grind results out too easily if we don’t play well. Maybe this is was what Klopp was referring to in his comments after the Barcelona game. Maybe he sees that we need to focus on our ability to be able to put up a block in games, get behind the ball and get a breather before we unleash hell again. Who knows, mate, my head’s still battered by the diving.

So, if we take both games with a big pinch of salt how are we fixed for Sunday against Arsenal?

I’ve got to admit I’m confident — more confident than I have been on any opening day for years. The threat of the Reds on the break, the attitude and willingness to commit men forward and the level of pace within the side that was missing last year leaves me thinking that we are perfectly positioned to turn Arsenal over. An Arsenal side that will want the ball, will try to move the ball around the Reds and who are hopefully arrogant enough to play into our hands will be dispatched with a minimum of fuss so we can all have a big lovely day out on the ale.

Until then, I’m off to fill the paddling pool in the garden. Going to try diving off our extension’s flat roof into it in the tightest pair of ballies I can find. I need six judges and a partner. Anyone fancy it? No?

Let’s go Red Men, get into these.

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