LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 31, 2016: Liverpool's Ragnar Klavan tackles Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

WEEKS before this. This:

  • What a game this will be. Two sides who will want to play and be able to play without fear. First vs second or third. A close affair to see in the New Year.
  • Can’t wait to take it to them. Stick it to them. Show them who is better. Should be some night. And you know what, if they win? Well all the best.

This week. This:

  • Terrified about this. Lose this and we could be nine behind Chelsea. These are good you know. We are good. But these are good.
  • We’re not full strength here. Got to just cut loose and be ourselves. Go at them. Scare them.

Team selection. This:

  • Why has he changed it? This shape or system or personnel or all the above?
  • Into these early. No messing about.

Half time. This:

  • Liverpool; the Liverpool manager; his team — has chosen to make this match as alehouse as possible. This is fascinating in that it sort of completely undos whatever any opponent tries to do. Alehouse is that sort of move. Cleverness drips off it when done with clever players.
  • The game became about battles. One on one. Two on two. Find your battle and win it. It may not feel like it means anything but it could mean everything. The ball? It goes. It goes. It goes. Win it. Shift it. Empty it. It goes.
  • There isn’t a ton in it and there is everything in it. A game which had felt like it would be free flowing, end-to-end drama becomes one which feels like it will be decided by one goal in three at best. And Liverpool have the first of those goals.
  • It’s a stark reminder of what the game actually is. And that at the very highest level the game is never more than one meal away from being an elongated process of winning the right to play. Winning the right to play can too often become more important than actually playing.
  • Jordan Henderson leading this. First to everything and Henderson managed somehow to be second to the rest.
  • And what a header. What a header. The Reds lead. The adverb “deservedly” is irrelevant. Because this is football. You rarely get what is deserved. But Liverpool spent some money on this footballer — Georginio Gregion Emile “Gini” Wijnaldum — and while his performances to date have been excellent, this sort of thing is cold and hard and marvellous.

Full time. This:

  • Every clearance worthy of an ole. You know when they say “ole football”? I hate it. Why? Because clearances, blocks, tackles can feel like goals. Can feel worthy of oles. You know why? Because you choose your type of football and Liverpool chose theirs. The olé was seeing them out.
  • Liverpool scrapped the most. It was a Gerard Houllier performance. All grit and sense. All harder than iron. All capable of one more. This is my football. The football I grew up with. Football where you watch the clock and shout the minute. Football we haven’t seen. Which leads to…
  • Imagine being there in the week. Being one of them. The football that has got you here partially dispensed with. A manager who wants you to do it this differently. To be alehouse. To win your battles and see. His lads went with. His centre halves almost faultless. His goalkeeper a marvel. But his forwards. Willing and strong. One more channel. One more shuttle. One more run for Liverpool.

An hour since:

  • Look at that table. As Evertonian Matt Jones said, imagine being Chelsea. Imagine having won that many and The Reds are there. Smiling, gnarly, capable of anything.
  • 19 in. 43 on the board. These Reds. Our Reds. Harder than me. Harder than you. Love them. Come and adore them. Sunderland. If I do it right I will still be drunk from tonight. If they do it right so will they. Me on booze and success. Them on success. Harder than me. Better than me. Possibly even gnarlier than me.
  • With love see you and them again on the 2nd. They are the Kings of Europe. As far as I am concerned.
  • Walk around the gnarly bastards. Up the New Years Eve Reds. May they never string 15 passes together.

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Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo

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