SO here’s the thing. Liverpool’s 2-1 win away to Swansea does not mean the Reds are going to win the league. But, bloody hell, does it prove they can go and win it.
How many times have we seen that kind of game? A team, manifestly not as good at playing football as Liverpool, take an early lead, whether it was coming or not, whether it was deserved or not. The Reds then chase the game for the remaining 70-odd minutes, camp just outside their opponents’ box and, if they’re lucky, come away with a point.
It all seemed to start in earnest in Kenny Dalglish’s full season back in charge. The Reds would actually play pretty well most of the time but concede a goal off someone’s arse and, somehow, thanks to the opponent’s keeper turning out to be Lev Yashin and a frankly incredible talent amongst those in red to hit the ball off the frame of the goal, the game would be lost or drawn.
Rinse and repeat.
We’ve become all too used to games like this in the years since. In part, we’ve even learned to accept them to some degree.
I am embarrassed to say that as the clock ticked through the 70s and creeped into 80, I had begun to try and rationalise the draw to myself. The excuses were already forming in my head.
Adam Lallana, arguably Liverpool’s best player so far this season, had his game ended before a game had even really broken out.
Liverpool had been absolute muck in the first half; at least they had turned that around. Swansea were scrapping for their manager’s job — of course they were going to be up for this. Maybe, just maybe, a point wouldn’t be a terrible result.
Bollocks to that.
Of the many, many reasons I would be of no use to Jürgen Klopp’s Reds, number one on the list is my mentality. Because Klopp would not, and did not, allow the settling mentality develop in his players. Far from it.
Despite knocking on the door all second half only to be turned away by a battling Swansea, the Reds did not lose their heads.
Instead, through force of will and weight of numbers, they won a late penalty, Jimmy Milner stepped up to do the honours and they held on. The goal was not Lovren vs Dortmund late on (I’m not sure anything will ever be as late as that again) but it is a continuation of a happy trend that started when Divock Origi scored in injury time to earn the Reds a 2-2 draw with West Brom at Anfield last November.
Late goals are a thing in this team — more so than in any Liverpool team since Rafa’s lot in 2008-09. Late goals for days in that lot. Same here.
Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised.
The change in mindset, the shift of mentality, has been well flagged by the manager since his arrival. He has spoken about the team deciding when the match is over, not the ref or the clock. He has also spoken, before the 5-1 against Hull, of teams coming for “our points” and the need to be greedy and hungry for and protective of those points.
So you can bet your bottom dollar that Klopp was not, as the minutes ticked by on Saturday, reconciling himself with the possibility of a good point. And I am bang into that.
For the rest of the season, let there be no such thing as a good point. No matter how well the Reds play, we shouldn’t be happy with less than a win. It is possible to be both happy with the performance and pissed off with the result.
These Reds, good enough to win the league, are hungry for points — plural. When the Reds win, we all win. When they draw or lose, we should be seething.
The important thing here is how they channel that feeling. We’re a part of that, too. A bad result isn’t an invitation to get on the team’s back. It’s a call to arms. If the Reds lose, the next game matters that bit more. Take it to the next level. For the fans, that means shout and sing that bit louder. For the players, it’s applying the work they did midweek.
Like I said, beating Swansea 2-1 does not mean the Reds will win the league. But the mindset that saw them do it means they can.
No more excuses, no more going easy on ourselves. No more ‘good points’. The greedy Reds are coming up the hill and they’re coming for your wins.