I’M typing this before kick-off on Sunday morning on the hottest train in Europe to watch the Mighty Reds in town. You forget that during a season like this one every game becomes massive. A must win game. The nerves creep up on you from nowhere.
On Saturday I am a picture of bravado. Twenty-four hours later and the day starts with me fretting over the referee, seeking some Clattsy reassurance to guarantee a lovely day ahead. It isn’t forthcoming. Instead, in a world of worry and angst (against my better nature) I am left to ponder the strengths and weaknesses of Chelsea, City and Arsenal and start scratching for clues as to who has got the upper hand.
My thoughts go something like this at this point:
Chelsea — looking good, managed by a boss manager who has got counter-attacking boxed and has done one of the following:
1) figured out how to regrow his own hair.
2) had an unbelievable transplant using the hair of a unicorn rather than cobwebs and detritus scraped off the changing room floor like big Rondo Rooney.
3) Bought a boss wig.
4) Found some trolls and convinced them to stand on top of his big baldy grid whenever he is out of the house.
The mad thing is that, whichever of the above he chose, he ended up in front of a mirror looking at a picture of Steve Rotheram, hair dryer and brush in hand, made up with himself. Imagine all of the years of worry, of watching your youth literally wash down the plug hole and when you finally find a miracle cure you end up looking like a cross between a mod and Liam Gallagher.
I don’t see Chelsea lasting, though. They play West Brom next week and they are now somehow better than Barcelona. They also play a load of teams who will let them have the ball in the next few weeks.
City — shite.
Arsenal — shite.
Anyway, I digress, we are here to talk about the Reds; the mightiest of the Mighty Reds. The toxic thunder Reds. My wandering mind is brought crashing down to earth when the team is announced and Joel Matip isn’t playing. It’s a worry, but then it isn’t really if you know what I mean. In my head, the only way we don’t win this game is if we aren’t on it. If we start well and the shape is good we will be fine. I spend 20 minutes before kick-off saying this to anyone who will listen, which at half-time makes me feel like one smug bellend.
The first half comes and goes with another crushing performance from Liverpool. They do everything well. Bournemouth add there name to a growing list of teams who genuinely can’t live with us, our pressing, our shape, attacking intent or willingness to work. They spend 45 minutes chasing shadows and, if we are all honest, are lucky to go in two down. It is a lesson in control. It is a lesson in decision making. There is no way we will lose this game if we carry on like this.
And therein lies the rub.
The tempo and work rate at the start of the second half is about 10 per cent less than the first half. That was all. Nine times out of 10, 2-0 up at half time, that is fine. Ninety per cent efficiency and work rate will ensure you do enough to win the game. Yesterday was the exception.
It is easy to sit at home and slag the players because of this, but now and again this happens. Now and again, playing football, sides knock off. Not massively, just slightly. It can be caused by hundreds of different things. Someone thinks it is easy. Someone makes a poor decision. Someone doesn’t track. Some sides are built to cope with this – this Liverpool team isn’t.
Our coping mechanism for this is to make sure our intensity is a hundred per cent at all times. Listen to any of the players talking about the manager or the training methodology and the demand placed on them is that they must always work at their maximum. The great strength of this side is its teamwork. The weakness of this team as a consequence is its reliance on teamwork.
Yesterday was one of them. Liverpool knocked off and Bournemouth had five chances and scored four goals. Liverpool were still the better side. Liverpool should still have won the game.
All of their goals were shite. Shite in the sense that they were defendable and shite in the sense that they pretty much all come from Liverpool errors. The exception to this is their third which was just ridiculous. A crab of a centre-half pulls a poor ball six-foot behind him down with a touch like Maradona, turns like Rushie and buries it before anyone can even react. That wasn’t poor defending. This shit happens sometimes.
Unfortunately for us, we somehow managed to combine freak goals with poor defending. They didn’t batter us. They didn’t grind us into conceding. They would score, we would resume playing, resume control and then someone would knock off again. It was ludicrous. It was one of them.
I mean it would be nice if we could buy a goalie who can catch it every now and then, but until then we can all carry on having a lovely time arguing over which one of them is less shite.
Big Si the Mig is playing his best football of his Liverpool career and yet he can’t get a game. People are saying he wouldn’t have made that mistake for the fourth and using it as direct evidence as to why Loris Karius should be binned, and they may be right.
Karius can point to three clean sheets on the spin as part of a settled defensive unit. I think the issue for me is that, whilst Big Si might not make the direct error for the last, his lack of communication, decision making and all round bellendery would mean that it is likely that he would have spent the previous five games whispering ghost stories, half-truths and urban myths to the centre-halves about his positioning or when he is coming for a ball that would have ultimately resulted in us conceding well more goals, chances and points — or them being signed off long term sick with work-related stress.
Yes, it’s a mistake. Yes, he probably should do better for the second. But to now claim that Mignolet is a better ‘keeper than him, having previously shown a willingness to drag him into The Kop and scalp him for not twatting the ball as far as he possibly can, seems somewhat hypocritical.
You can look at this result many ways. You can moan about the defence, or the ‘keepers, or the team selection. You can blame individual players. You can blame the manager. I prefer to look at the evidence in front of us so far this season.
We, in my eyes, have played poorly for the majority of a game twice this season. Once against Burnley and once against Swansea. The players collective response has been one of such will, work rate and commitment that teams and challengers have been dispatched left, right and centre, resulting in us having 30 points from 14 games. That is not a bad rate of return.
What do you think is going on this morning in training? Do you think that this manager will let them players mope about or feel sorry for themselves? Do you think that these lads would want to do that anyway? Isn’t it more likely that they will look at what happened, correct some mistakes, learn from the set back and kick on?
I feel sorry for West Ham, I really do. I wouldn’t want to face this Liverpool side just after they have been beaten. They will be fuming. They will be desperate to get back on the pitch and put things right. They will be furious with us for doubting them.
Bring on Slaven Bilic, and West Ham, and their Tory fans singing about unemployment. Because these Reds want revenge. These Reds want someone to pay.
These Reds mean business.
Let’s get into these, Redmen.
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