LIKE a lot of people, I’ve been enjoying the new Planet Earth series on BBC One. If I feel half as relieved when Liverpool win the league as I did when that little lizard made it away from those snake bastards the other week then I’ll be surprised.
It’s made me think about perspective, though. Following the exploits of some weird goat thing that appears to be able to survive living on the edge of a sheer cliff, I was all for a red fox fucking off and leaving it alone. But then I thought, if we’d have been following the fox in the first place and had been told that its only hope of survival was to chow down on a goat, would we have been hoping that the rocks had shifted?
Right now, fans of other clubs will be delighted at the possibility that Adam Lallana picked up an injury on Tuesday night. Liverpool are like an angry lion at the moment, mauling everyone in their way. An injury to one of our finest performers might just allow the rest of the Premier League a bit of breathing space, like a gazelle trying to slink off into the undergrowth whilst the lion tends to its wound.
It feels as if a Liverpool player is always picking up an injury when on international duty. It might be true, too. I have such little interest in football other than the Premier League that I can’t decide if it actually happens or it’s just confirmation bias. I do wonder how we get on generally after international breaks, though. Is Jürgen Klopp better at coping with these interruptions to his schedule than previous managers have been?
The powers that be, in their wisdom, decided that just a few weeks after the new season got underway the Premier League should take a break so that World Cup Qualifying matches could be played. England beat Slovakia 1-0 in Sam Allardyce’s first (and last) game in charge; the only goal coming from Lallana.
Six days later and the defending Premier League champions rocked up to Anfield and faced a side without Philippe Coutinho, with the Brazilian having flown all the way around the world and only landed as George was playing You’ll Never Walk Alone. We smashed four past Leicester, the third being scored by a certain Adam Lallana who was proving himself to be integral to both club and country even back then.
Another break came at the start of October, this time two more World Cup Qualifiers against Slovenia and Malta First Division under a different England manager altogether. When our league campaign got back underway it was against José Mourinho’s Manchester United and finished in a 0-0 draw. Most people agreed that the Mancs were fortunate that the international break had ruined out rhythm, with subsequent results for both sides adding credence to that idea.
So what will this weekend have in store for us? The good news is that most of the players will have been back at Melwood for the majority of the week, with the obvious exception being our Brazilian pair who the club have had to hire a private jet for in order to get them back in time. Firmino was, at least, an unused substitute on Tuesday night. We’ll leave the ‘why even bother taking him then’ question for another time and just be grateful that he didn’t get injured.
Another bit of positive news is that Southampton have had players missing for the best part of a fortnight, too. Virgil van Dijk and Jordy Clasie were away with the Netherlands, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond appeared for England Under-21s, Maya Yoshida went off to play for Japan, Steven Davis was back to Northern Ireland, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was called up by Denmark, Ryan Bertrand joined the likes of Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge in the England squad, Dušan Tadić headed to Serbia, Sofiane Boufal is a Moroccan international and José Fonte was asked to do his duty for Portugal.
The game against the Saints very much fits in with the current narrative of every game Liverpool play being a potential banana skin against opposition that will *definitely* beat us, but how have they coped with the international breaks that have come so far this season?
After Sam Allardyce’s brief spell as the England boss the Saints travelled to the Emirates and actually took the lead against Arsenal before narrowly missing out on a draw. It took a 94th minute Santi Cazorla penalty to give the Gunners the win, with many commentators feeling that Southampton deserved more from the game and were actually very organised.
As we were drawing with United after the start of the Southgate era, Saints were putting three past Burnley at St. Mary’s. They then went on to lose 1-0 to Inter Milan in the Europa League and draw 1-1 with Man City the following weekend, so did they beat Burnley because they recovered well from the international break or simply because the Clarets aren’t very good away from home?
Looking back to November 2015 and March 2016 may not give us much of a clue about Southampton, given that they had a different manager and all, but it could tell us slightly more about how Klopp copes with the boredom. On the 17th of November 2015 England beat France 2-0 in a friendly. On the Saturday after, the Reds beat Manchester City 4-1 at the Etihad.
Two more friendlies followed for Roy’s brave boys in March of this year. A 3-2 win over Germany (we’ll definitely win the Euros, lads!) was followed by a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands (I can see us getting embarrassed by an Iceland team with a shite clap you know, lads). Upon returning to league action we drew 1-1 with Spurs, drew 1-1 away to Dortmund and then scored four against Stoke.
What does all of this tell you? Well, if you’re a glass half-empty kind of person then you’ll look at the 0-0 draw with United, 1-1 draw with Spurs and the fact that Southampton have been playing much better than their results suggest this season and believe that a draw at St. Mary’s will be a good result.
If you’re more of a believer, in the glass half-full approach to life, then you’ll like the fact that we’ve scored four past Manchester City and four past Leicester after two international breaks under Klopp and feel that Southampton might be in for a hiding.
Me? I’m still wondering how the frigging hell that goat clung to the side of the cliff when I slip over on wet leaves. It’s all about perspective.