IT’S hard work this, isn’t it?
When I was greeted by family at a New Year’s Eve party after the Manchester City game with the question “did you enjoy that?”, I responded with an emphatic “I’m absolutely knackered”. I said the same after spending a full five minutes celebrating Sadio Mane’s winner against Everton by jumping up and down from my seat and running up and down the stairs to embrace various friends and complete strangers, and yesterday’s final whistle saw me exhausted again, this time in the comfort of my own house having spent the last 30 minutes hitting cushions, screaming at the TV and coming up with a range of adjectives for the referee.
My dad has been telling my mum for years that going to watch Liverpool is hard work, so at least we can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that it’s always been like this, and I’ve been saying for a while that watching Jürgen Klopp’s Reds could literally cause deaths, but it only dawned on me over the past few days that mine could be one of them if this all continues.
What the Premier League chiefs don’t consider when compiling the Christmas fixture list is that the players might now be elite athletes with supreme levels of fitness, just about able to deal with the demands of a congested fixture list with the assistance of elite level nutritionists, sports science experts, oxygen tanks and rotation, but us supporters are trying to deal with this run of games while eating large quantities of chocolate, biscuits and cakes, and drinking as much alcohol as our overweight bodies can absorb without having the option to be rotated out for a game.
My wife and I spent the two months leading up to Christmas living with my parents while we were waiting to move into a new house. For those interested in stats, the official Opta data for anyone living back in their mum’s house for any period of time shows an average weight gain of one stone per calendar month, with a proportionate decrease in mobility and increase in sweating and panting when climbing stairs. After those two months, followed by the usual Christmas indulgence, I’m struggling to take my wedding ring off for bed at night because the fat has started collating around my fingers having grown bored of reducing the number of pairs of trousers I can wear from my wardrobe with the increased inches around my waist.
In addition to that, this year’s jam-packed Yuletide run of games sees us having a serious interest in winning our first league title for 27 years, meaning that we now also have to deal with stress levels that our over-indulged frames are in no fit state to survive.
All-in-all, not a great combination for living a long and healthy life.
Added to the health dangers linked to the Christmas fixture list, the problem with our all too rare title challenges is that we care too much so every little bump in the road feels like going over the edge of Niagara Falls in a barrel. It’s been so long since we won a league title that many of us don’t really remember it and we therefore don’t have enough muscle memory to comfort us when faced with any blips along the way. We’re like teenage boys trying to get our first kiss, the desperation oozing from every pore of our exuberant bodies.
Let’s put yesterday’s result into context in the hope that we can become the cool kid that everyone wants to kiss. We played a tough away game less than 48 hours after a gruelling and draining face-off with one of the best sides in the division which sapped us both physically and mentally, we went ahead twice and were pegged back through a combination of questionable refereeing decisions and sloppy play. Let’s not forget, though, that two days earlier we witnessed a disciplined performance from this same group of players. The type of performance which I personally didn’t think we had in us. The fact that we showed signs of mental and physical tiredness against Sunderland is no surprise and isn’t something we should overreact to or dwell on. After City the national media was quick to join us in sending warning messages down to Stamford Bridge, now they say we’re too fragile to challenge. Standard stuff.
Questions will obviously be asked of the manager’s decision not to rest any of the team that started the match against City (Jordan Henderson’s omission through injury aside), but at 2-1 with 20 minutes to go it looked to be a gamble that had paid off. Only a questionable first penalty (I’m surprised more hasn’t been made of that decision), a very dubious free-kick (I still don’t think it was a foul by either Lucas Leiva or Emre Can) followed by a moment of madness from Sadio Mane, cost us the three points. I think we can all agree to let Sadio off the hook, given his contribution in the early months of his Liverpool career.
Jürgen was clearly disappointed with the dropped points in his post-match interviews and it was interesting to see how he and Pep Guardiola both seemed equally annoyed by their games despite City having won. I can only imagine the conversations managers like them have with each other when discussing the winter fixture schedule in this country. I’ve mentioned previously my thoughts on the age-old adage that we all play the same teams over the course of the season, and this time of the year demonstrates my point better than any other. All of our rivals will have to play away to Sunderland during the 38 game campaign, but none will have to do it less than 48 hours after playing a huge game against a title rival.
That might well even itself out to some degree over the course of the season but it’s an entirely random element that skews the entire competition, as is the way Chelsea’s fixtures have fallen during the same period.
All-in-all it’s a blow to all of us, but this is as good a time as any to sit back, take a deep breath and calm ourselves down, given that we have nearly two weeks before our next Premier League game away to our fiercest rivals.
We hit the halfway point in the season with the most points we’ve had at that stage in the Premier League era, with only seasons so long ago that it was two points for a win seeing a greater proportion of points being accumulated. The only reason we didn’t finish the calendar year at the league summit is the imperious form of Chelsea, and the hard facts of life are that if they maintain their current form no-one in the country will catch them anyway.
Before the Sunderland game I was lauding Jürgen’s post-City statement that if you’d been on Chelsea’s run of wins and still had a team within six points of you you’d be frustrated, and nothing has changed today. We’re now five points behind as they approach a difficult game away to a Spurs side that is highly motivated to exact revenge for last year’s end of season kick-fest. If they lose at Spurs we all resume Premier League duties after a couple of weeks off for cup games going into the second half of the season five points behind with Chelsea still to come to our place.
If they win away at Spurs to put us eight points off the pace, the doom-mongers will be calling time on our latest title challenge and it will be hard to argue that Chelsea aren’t clear favourites to win the title if they do manage to beat their capital city rivals, but haven’t we all been around long enough to know that no league title has ever been won in January?
At this point last season Arsenal were top and went on to finish 10 points behind Leicester. In 2013/14 we were sitting in fifth place after 19 games, six points behind Arsenal in first place, yet we finished the season five points ahead of the Gunners despite missing out on the top prize. We’ve seen Chelsea start seasons on fire in recent years as well, with pundits and bookies declaring them as winners only for them to fall away, and we’re yet to see what happens this season when they do eventually lose a game (which they will). The goals they conceded to Stoke will have done enough to show the teams they face over the next few weeks that they’re as vulnerable as any other team of humans, capable of making mistakes and conceding goals.
Manchester United are currently 10 points behind Chelsea but, having won six games on the run, you can bet that Jose Mourinho won’t have given up hope of catching his old club, and Guardiola clearly thinks that City are still in the hunt, even after being beaten by us on New Year’s Eve.
While we await Chelsea’s inevitable defeat we should prepare ourselves properly for the second half of the season. I’m going to clear out the last of the chocolates in my house (when I say “clear out” I mean “eat”) before embarking on a title-challenging training regime to ensure that my body can withstand the demands of another five months of the highs and lows that Jürgen’s team will throw at us. We also all need to sign up for some yoga or pilates classes, while learning some breathing exercises to deal with the last 10 minutes of stress-inducing games.
Nobody told us that gegenpressing would challenge our fitness levels as well as the players’, but seeing as that’s now become apparent we’d best prepare accordingly.
It’s going to be a roller coaster of a new year.
All the best.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Looking where we have come from under Rodgers, and the difference in expectation, my disappointment is interrupted by my pinching myself….am I dreaming? Are we 2nd in league in Jan?
Brilliantly on point. Everyone would have taken 10 points from last 4 games.
My missus inadvertently phoned me right on the final whistle. I ignored it but she phoned again so I answered it thinking it might be an emergency. She said ‘have you seen the moon? Have a look, you can see Venus’. I was so disgusted that without saying a word I hung up. In my head I was thinking ‘Venus? Who gives a fuck about fuckin Venus’. I then went on Twitter only to find all those that seem to take pleasure in us not winning ‘I said top 4 was our goal this season’, ‘we don’t have the defence to challenge’, ‘we’re not strong enough to win it’. I nearly exploded with rage. In fact, I did a little (sorry Adam, if you read this – I’ve simply got no time for wankers when I’m in that mood, apologies if I offended some of your followers).
What is wrong with Liverpool fans? I read somewhere (it may have been a comment on Neil’s review) that this is what Klopp meant by changing our mentality. I think that’s spot on. My anger was over the fixtures as much as anything. Good players looked awful. There’s a reason for that. ‘Yeah, but it’s the same for Sunderland’. That ridiculous statement completely misses the point. Splitters.
Imagine if Spurs win tomorrow or even draw. Imagine if we beat Chelsea on the 31st. That’s not beyond the realms of possibility. We’d be 2 or 3 points behind with just under half a season to play. It’s absolutely ridiculous to right us off and I’m absolutely livid over the whole thing. People will blame Twitter but it’s not Twitter, it’s Liverpool fans. Clueless bellends.
P.s I do yoga, have done for years and believe me it doesn’t help. 2 games running now I’ve had pains across my chest when the match has been on. It is what it is, you just have to get on with it.
There can be no doubt that watching football, in particular Liverpool, is detrimental to one’s health. I was almost institutionalised when Sunderland were given their second penalty, especially on light of that deplorable call from Anthony Taylor.
As for Liverpool fans, there is most definitely a damage limitation mentality among many. This whole ‘oh we’re not expecting the title anyway’ thing is simply people trying to guard against the feeling we’re going to have if we don’t win the league. Not for me. It’s all part of it. If we lose out on the title, we lose out. I’m not letting that dampen the thrill of watching Liverpool play and compete at the top end.
If Spurs beat Chelsea tonight it’s all going to kick off….
I’m not so sure Dan. I have this feeling that it’s more than a guard. I kinda feel people like the superiority of being right. Maybe they’ve said Liverpool can’t win the league earlier in the season. There’s a smugness about the comments. I’d go as far as to say it’s a British trait. I much prefer the attitudes towards the club I see on here from fans outside the UK. They’re far more positive and much less cynical and snide.
Yeah there is an element of that too. Fans absolutely love a snide ‘told you so’, possibly more than even Liverpool winning games. It validates them.
Klopp has galvanised the fan base and introduced a new way of thinking, but some are stuck in their ways.
Quite right, on just about all counts but one: Brendan Rodgers 13/14 side was more likely to give you a heart attack.
All that and all I’m thinking is; why do you need to take your wedding ring off before you go to bed? I’m not sure if that says more about you or me???
And talking of the phantom foul for the free-kick and 2nd penalty,.. Anyone else feel that Larsson should not have been on the pitch after two rugby tackles?
Liverpool can’t win the title by their own efforts it’s now out of their hands. It’s Chelsea’s to lose
January 1st 1996.
Man U travel to White Hart Lane and get thumped 4-1 and Newcastle establish a 12-point lead in the PL.
Man U end up winning league
8th April 2012
Man City lose one nil away to Arsenal leaving Man U 8 points clear with 6 games to go.
Man City win the league.
There is of course more examples of teams establishing leads in the league and holding on to them. But these two examples prove that it’s possible for it to be turned around.
And whilst it’s possible, is it not worth keeping the faith?
You take your wedding ring off for bed? Why??
Brilliant article Paul. Good balance of humour and realism to counter the inevitable upset and anger that came with dropping points (because of simple exhaustion). The encouraging thing about the last 7 games (which include Bournemouth, West Ham and Sunderland) is that we have played well and we have shared 17 goals around the team. We have goals everywhere whereas Chelsea and United in particular are reliant on two or three players. Of course we’d love Chelsea to drop points tonight but like Klopp and his players keep saying, all we can do is concentrate on ourselves. United away is now massive. We win that, then i think the rest of the league will sh*t themselves!
Next 9 games include all 5 of the teams nearest us in fact every other week plus 4 small fry. Assume we get 2 ppg so we drop 9 points (3 losses or some combo of loss or draw.
We’re then on 62 point.
Final 9 games are all against teams from 7th down. Can we get 22-24 of 27? We’re then at least on 84-86 points. Enough?