IF you’re anything like me then you’re immensely frustrated that we’re having to put up with a tedious international break right now. There are loads of things about it that are annoying, but without question the main one is that we have to wait the best part of a fortnight to watch The Reds play again.
When your team is playing exciting, attacking football like Jürgen Klopp’s men are you want to watch them every day, let alone every week. Craig Hannan summed it up perfectly on The Pink when he said he wanted us to be playing Manchester United straight after Swansea. Lots of people don’t like to talk about it for fear of jinxing things, but there’s something happening at Anfield right now. As Neil said on the main show on Monday, this league is there to be won.
One thing that I think is going under the radar at the moment, something that I’m convinced is helping the lads win matches, is the brilliant team spirit that seems to have been fostered at Anfield. These lads are loving playing with each other and for each other; they’re enjoying their football and they’re working together in a way that hasn’t been on display for a long while.
It’s no surprise, of course. Klopp’s tactics require everyone to work together towards a common goal or they simply won’t pay off. Speaking on Monday Night Football the manager said: “No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter pressing situation”. Or, in other words, the team working together is better than one individual player.
It was interesting to read quotes from Divock Origi yesterday. Normally when you hear that a Liverpool player who isn’t in the starting XI has said something while away on international duty you fear the worst. We all remember Christian Benteke going away with Belgium towards the end of last season and declaring his confusion at Klopp not picking him because ‘It is not like we play in the Barcelona style’.
Yet his compatriot said something markedly different. Origi told the Belgian press, “Of course I would like to play more, but never change a winning team. I’m still convinced that I will make it at Liverpool”.
It’s a brilliant attitude to have and exactly what you want to hear from a young striker. He’s confident in his own ability but he understands that right now the team is playing well and he’ll have to bide his time before he can make the breakthrough. There are similar noises from Danny Ings. It can’t be easy to go from being one of Burnley’s first-choice strikers to missing the best part of the season through injury to barely even featuring on the bench. Yet the lurch-headed frontman isn’t crying to the press about how he’s being under-used, instead scoring seven goals in four games for the under-23s and asking the question of his manager.
Ings also seemed to be having a good laugh, as did the rest of the squad, when the likes of Gini Wijnaldum, Joel Matip and Marko Grujic had to sing songs in front of their new teammates. The video didn’t show someone annoyed at being left out of the team at the expense of others but rather someone who was enjoying life and who is determined to be a part of something special.
Funnily enough, photos and videos posted to social media seem to be displaying the fun everyone is having. Whether it’s Bobby Firmino taking over the LFC Twitter or Origi and Daniel Sturridge taking each on at driving a bus, there’s a laugh being had by all at Melwood at the moment. Sturridge in particular is an interesting case. Constantly rumoured to be a divisive character who lets it be known when he’s unhappy and caught on camera looking angry when Klopp didn’t use him in the Spurs game, barely a picture emerges from team training without the striker looking like he’s bloody loving life at the moment. He always has a big smile on his face and seems to be having a laugh.
Of course team spirit is about more than just having a laugh with each other in training. It’s about working together and working for each other in the match and there’s no question that that’s happening too. Again, it’s no surprise when you remember what Klopp said in the summer. Speaking about the European Championships in France, the German commented: “There were wonderful examples of what football really is — about building a team, creating a bond between the team, supporters and whole countries”.
He is adamant that a team that works together will always be better off than one that is a collection of ‘stars’. After the win against Chelsea, which perhaps demonstrated the difference in philosophies starkly, he said, “The more we believe in our way, the more likely it is we can go through whatever it will lead us to. I have no idea, but I think it makes football much more enjoyable when you really feel this togetherness because we are often enough alone. I love this really”.
It’s difficult to know when we haven’t had such a strong team spirit in the past without having been in the dressing room, but it’s also difficult to imagine that the lads felt all that strong a bond to each other when they lost 6-1 to Stoke at the end of the 2014/15 season. There seems to be a general mood in the squad at the minute that everyone is pulling in the same direction in a way that we haven’t seen since the year that will forever be known as ‘the year we almost won the league’. If Liverpool are to be involved in a title race then that could be a crucial factor when it comes to the important moments.
I’ve made a couple of references to Liverpool challenging for the title in my columns that have made people distinctly uncomfortable. The response I get most often is that I might be ‘jinxing’ things by talking about it, as if somehow the players will read my pieces and completely lose their shit.
I’ll be honest, I suspect very few professional footballers care what I’ve got to say. If they did read my pieces and find their heads going because I’ve referred to them as ‘Champions Elect’ then it might be worth re-considering whether or not they’ve got the mentality to play for Liverpool Football Club.
I get it though, I really do. In the 2013/14 season I got into the habit of wearing two t-shirts in rotation for the last dozen or so matches. I also wrote ‘And now you’re going to believe us’ on my Facebook wall because I wrote it after one match when we’d won. I did all of this and more quite religiously and I imagine a number of you did the same. Yet in the end it made absolutely no difference.
Perhaps you’re the type of supporter that doesn’t want to admit that Liverpool could win the league because you find the disappointment if it doesn’t happen too heart-breaking. That’s fair enough. I’m certainly not going to tell you to do things any differently. The only thing I would say is that we haven’t won it for 26 years.
Maybe it’s time for us all to abandon our superstitions and embrace the uncomfortable. I know it goes against the grain but they say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If we’re all going to be crazy, we may as well be crazy in love.