THERE are nights when I am jealous of those who can come to massive conclusions. I just don’t have it in me after that.
If you want big bold criticisms, I probably have this one:
Liverpool aren’t aggressive enough at 0-2 and 1-3. They don’t do enough to make it 0-3 and 1-4. They have their foot on the Bournemouth throat at 0-2 and should have it on at 1-3. But the squeeze isn’t there. The insistence isn’t there. The conversion of dominance and superiority into scoreline isn’t there. And, without it, the football match becomes a vacuum. Doubt fills that vacuum.
The rest you know.
The rest is a conversation around individual mistakes, Bournemouth’s doggedness and some lad called Fraser. The rest is Dejan Lovren’s bad header leading to James Milner going for a ball he can’t win. Loris Karius at fault and Liverpool all racing back ahead of the ball once. Steve Cook turning and swivelling. Karius spilling. In the midst of all this, some lad called Fraser came on and was the best footballer in the world for 20 minutes. I don’t know what his first name is. I don’t even know what position he plays. I just know that Leo Messi has a lot to worry about all of a sudden. He’s the best player I have ever seen for 15 minutes. Is this allowed? Can we ask for a recount?
Bournemouth come out second half playing for pride and playing for not getting battered in front of their own crowd. They just want it to be respectable. But the hammer never comes, the battering isn’t there. Liverpool come out 10 per cent off where they were for the first 20 of the first half. Liverpool don’t come out like they should.
It’d be easy to say this is complacency, to turn it into a personality defect. I think it is something which just happens to football teams on occasion; I thought Chelsea started the second half against Manchester City far worse than they did the first yesterday. And that ended up the way it did. Similarly it would be easy to do that sort of imposition of personality defects across the park. The reality is this is just elite team sport sometimes combined with there being ongoing question marks around a couple of Liverpool’s players. The two centre-halves and the goalkeeper don’t cover themselves in glory. Far from it. Lucas Leiva looked quite literally short in the last 20. Karius needs to save more things, harsh as that might be. Lovren needs to be senior. That is the point of him and has been since he was signed.
Sometimes players just have off days. That’s probably Roberto Firmino’s poorest 90 minutes of the season. He was never in the game. He never shirked, never hid but it couldn’t get going for him. He couldn’t show what he needed to.
Sometimes footballers have a poor 20 minutes. Jordan Henderson had a poor 20 minutes. He was otherwise excellent but for 20 minutes at 3-1, leading to 3-3, he didn’t impose as he had been. At 3-3 he is excellent. First half he is excellent. But that 20 minutes. That 20 minutes.
Sometimes football teams need to bounce back. Liverpool have been unbeaten for 15 games. They now need to be unbeaten for the next 15. Whether or not this result can be marked down as one of them is all about what happens next to make it one of them. Liverpool have West Ham and two aways against Middlesbrough and Everton. Nine points is needed to make this one of them.
Around this time in 2013/14, Liverpool lost to Hull and were abject. This Liverpool haven’t been abject but the points are the same. That side then went on to win a host of football matches including West Ham at home. Around this time in 2002/3, a high flying Liverpool lost to Middlesbrough away and then barely won a league game again until February.
League football exists in a context. It always has and it always will. There are far fewer title deciders than people think and most of them happen in April. The goal between August and the end of March is to be in a position to decide things. Liverpool’s quest to do that has taken a backward step today. There are nights when I wish I just knew how that quest would end up, nights where I just wish I could flick to the back page and find out whodunnit.
There are nights when it is a joy. There are nights when it is a heartbreak. These nights can’t exist without one another. If Liverpool do what we need them to, then let’s enjoy the rest of December like no other. All the joy.
All I want for Christmas is nine more points and all the points. Dukla Prague away kits can do one. Nine more points and it is one of them. Anything else?
Much love. Big three to come. Get ready, Reds.
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