IT took nearly 30 seconds. Practically the moment that the final whistle blew on Sunday lunchtime’s capitulation, my Twitter timeline kicked into life. Suddenly, I was seeing Twitter screenshots of an article that I wrote here back in August (“We Will Win The League — Deal With It”, you may have read it) popping up in front of me. Handily, some blues had kept hold of it and felt they should refresh my memory in case the last ninety minutes had pushed me over into the dementia that could accompany my general forgetfulness. A risky strategy, I thought, given that they had yet to kick off against Manchester United and that, even in the early days of the season where Everton were winning the games that they were supposed to win, those lads across the park had looked nothing more than ordinary.
And, at 1-0 down and with their ‘keeper having the kind of rush of blood to the head that would have had Loris Karius, Simon Mignolet and John Achterberg tutting in despair, that strategy looked pretty foolhardy. Even at one-all the fact that they were reminding a team in third place, only four points off the leaders in the first week of December, seemed slightly laughable; after all, the fare that the Ev and United were dishing up was pretty pathetic compared to what we’ve already shown ourselves capable of. What we’d shown ourselves as capable of in that imperious first half before Sadio took a knock to the knee and the world fell apart. I took to Twitter myself, as is my wont. Adding to my earlier rejoinder that perhaps the blue half of the city might want to be more concerned with their own club and its current, glaring, failings — not having won for the last 10 games and all that — I pointed out that, although I was only half watching and probably wasn’t in the right frame of mind to assess, I’d rather watch us go 15 games unbeaten and then blow it than have to put up with the depressing football that Everton and United were offering.
Two very, very ordinary sides (one with a lad who cost about a billion quid and is yet to actually do anything) were playing very ordinary football with no verve, invention, swagger or beauty and trying to pretend that any of it would matter in anything other than a battle for eighth place while, on social media, our collective heads were falling off once again. We fumed, we buried, we fought amongst ourselves for the opportunity to be most damning about this latest Liverpool illusion finally being shown to be false.
And, yeah, there’s reason to be upset, reason to be annoyed; at 2-0 we should have the game sewn up, we should be killing Bournemouth off, we should be showing the world that we rise to every challenge and that being a point behind Antonio Conte’s Chelsea is simply a launch pad to being ahead of them by the end of the season, we should be showing the world that we now swat teams aside with ease. And, at 2-0, we’re on the verge of doing that; Bournemouth aren’t in the game, we may be a weakened version of ourselves but we’re imperious anyway and the opposition doesn’t matter. At 2-1 we simply go and score a third, because that is what we can do now. And at 3-1 Artur Boruc almost carries a ball over a line which screams goal and would have killed the day off but isn’t and doesn’t. And then everything breaks.
We can talk about the way that Divock Origi gives away possession for the second and doesn’t put in a defensive challenge for the third and contributes nothing for the entire game other than an incredible finish for the second. And we can talk about the way that we all think Sadio Mane isn’t contributing greatly until he leaves the pitch and we realise what he was doing. And we can talk about Karius dropping it for the fourth while ignoring three perfectly good saves he’s already made to keep us in the game before that as we’ve all been doing on Twitter.
But we’ll talk about all that on the Tuesday Review so why write about it? What I want to write about it is the reaction and the utter lack of context, balance, perspective and common sense.
You can’t win leagues playing like that. You can’t let a team like Bournemouth come back and expect to challenge at the top. The goalie isn’t good enough. Why don’t we spend on a decent ‘keeper and stop wasting our time with potential and bargains?
I’ve just been watching the 1986 cup final (I’m on Radio CityTalk doing the ‘Game Of My Life’ slot and talking about my book — signing in Waterstones Liverpool One before the West Ham game, come and say hello) and remarking on Bruce Grobbelaar’s performance and the shakiness of our defence. Bruce has a moment of madness, in fairness it’s actually nearly a minute of madness, while Everton are 1-0 up and nearly allows them to be 2-0 up and take away our double; he’s flapping at crosses, he’s indecisive, he’s coming for balls that he shouldn’t, he’s trying to gather a loose ball in the box, he’s fighting with Jim Beglin. He’s all over the place. As Bruce often was. To those who were castigating Karius and claiming that you can’t challenge for titles with a shaky keeper — we’ve had shaky keepers in the past, we won things, get a grip.
Then, at 1-1, Bruce makes that save. Because that’s what Bruce also does. Because that’s what ‘keepers do. Their mistakes are magnified because they cost you directly. That’s why we talk Karius for the fourth rather than Origi for the second and third, rather than talk about Lallana not being ready for the game and then being used in a position where he hasn’t been used all season because we’re cruising. David De Gea? How poor was De Gea in his first season? That’s worked out okay, hasn’t it? Klopp wanted Karius as his number one, Karius is his number one, get used to the idea, doesn’t look likely to change.
You can’t challenge for titles if you let teams like Bournemouth come back. Can’t you? Really?
Aston Villa 5 Liverpool 1. Shocking score, that. Appalling. How bad must that Liverpool team have been?
Well, its line up was Clemence, Neal, Jones, Thompson, Kennedy, Hughes, Keegan, McDermott, Heighway, Johnson and Callaghan, so, it was pretty good on the whole. And it was December 15 1976; six months later we nearly had a sodding treble. But that night, that night, we lost 5-1. And there were no goals scored in the second half. Thank Christ Twitter didn’t exist.
1977/8 — lost 3-1 to Manchester City, 3-2 to Birmingham, 4-2 to Derby. Only came second in the league but won a big shiny thing at Wembley as Kenny leapt the hoardings.
1978/9 — Villa again. Beat us 3-1. Okay, we stay six points clear but you’d start shaking, wouldn’t you?
1979/0 — Southampton do us 3-2, Coventry 1-0, Wolves 1-0, Spurs 2-0. Win the league.
1981/2 — Swansea 2-0, Brighton 1-0. These teams weren’t supposed to beat us. We won the league.
1982/3 — the Luton 3-3, losing 3-1 to West Ham. We lose 3-2 to Southampton in April, but that’s okay we’re 17 points clear. We win the league by nine points having clocked off around Easter. But we weren’t supposed to have those results either.
Apparently, teams can lose games that they weren’t supposed to lose and still win stuff? Who knew?
Context. We lost in August. We’ve lost again in December. I can think of approximately 18 other teams who wish they could say the same. Fifteen games unbeaten. Hadn’t conceded a goal for five hours before Sunday lunch and then we fell apart in 20 minutes. Yes, it was horrible. Yes, it hurt. But it’s gone. It’s a one off, it means nothing. Remember the Hull game in December 2013? How wretched was that? There was no coming back from that. Raheem Sterling’s career was over after that game. Three days later, three years to the day before the Bournemouth capitulation, we bounced back and Luis Suarez did THAT to Norwich.
Sunday was horrible. But it was one game, everything else now is about how we react to that game, how we learn from it. Look at how we learned from the Burnley game; the next three months were okay, weren’t they?
Shit happens, get a grip, move on. We’re going to win the league, deal with it.
(Many thanks to the wonderful lfchistory.net without whom I’d have had no chance with those stats)
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