DOES it always come to this? Or does it just feel like it does?
A season on that infernal precipice yet again.
It won’t hit us for a few weeks that we’re out of all the cups. Just wait till late February, though, when we realise we’ve only seen Liverpool play three times in a month. In the middle of a season.
Now, imagine what it will feel like if the next league fixture means nothing more than a desperate attempt at trying to get into the top four. That time in a campaign when even the booby prize is slipping from your grasp. You should all be shuddering right now.
We’re on the verge of living the longest winter in memory. We’re like Napoleon and Hitler, turned back at the gates of Moscow, to face only damnation and ice. Nothing to look forward to but death.
Was it only in breezy November that we still felt like we had the sun on our backs? That endless summer. I can’t recall a single cloud over Anfield in the Autumn as we romped home, game after game, 6-1 demolition after 5-1 trouncing. Simpler times. Happier days.
Am I depressing you, because I’m depressing myself. I’m the guy who gets accused of only looking on the bright side. The ‘Mr Positive’ of the operation. Like I’m some kind of happy-clappy dickhead. Well, now I’m going to tell it like it really is.
Positivity is the only option. It’s the only option when you realise that you’re going to die. When it dawns on you, as it dawned on me at about the age of six, that the story of my life, of all of our lives, ends badly. Terribly in fact.
Coming to terms with this is an endless quest. Well, not endless, unfortunately, but you know what I mean. But knowing that everything is in vain, is futile, forces you to take the wins that might just come your way. It’s really your only choice. That or just kill yourself right now. Don’t kill yourself., please. That would be awful.
I face this season-defining game with Chelsea, then, by only looking forward. Of course I can see how badly wrong it could go. It is beyond obvious to assert that a Liverpool team without a league win in a month and on the back of three straight home defeats, matching up against flyaway league leaders could lose awfully.
What do you want me to say? We’re fucked, you know. Goosed. No chance. Their heads have gone, and Chelsea are just too good.
You can get that kind of weary punditry in any boozer or on any radio phone-in you care to suggest. Great, so we’re going to lose.
If you think that though, and I mean really think it, then why would you bother even engaging with the contest? If you turn on the TV or put your coat on to go the game, surely you do it with some hope in your miserable heart? If you don’t then you are admitting that you actively enjoy watching your team suffering. You must in some subconscious way want them to fail.
A psychologist once told me – and I choose to believe it – that we don’t tend to do things we don’t like doing. He said that if human beings are repetitive in their behaviour, even where it appears self destructive, it is because they are getting something out of it.
This leaves the non-positivist with one of two possible positions then; he/she is either lying (perhaps to themselves) when they proclaim their team is doomed, or, they actually get a buzz out of seeing them lose. So, make your choice neg-heads. Which one of these wretched creatures are you?
‘Oh, but Rob, you just can’t help yourself but see happy outcomes, you naive deluded twat.’
Nope. Committing to the positive is not an act of faith, it is simply about making a decision to face forwards. The alternative – to live on your knees – is not a viable option.
Make no mistake, in the unlikely event Jürgen Klopp is reading (and understanding) this ill-thought out cod philosophical treatise, then he’s clapping ferociously. He’s nodding, he’s punching the air. He’s 100 per cent with me.
Does he walk into a Liverpool dressing room pre-Chelsea and say: “boys, you know how you haven’t put in a decent performance in about six weeks? Well, it’s because you’re actually shit. It’s because you’ve been found out. It’s because you’ve run out of legs. It’s now obvious the squad has no depth and that I’m not actually the messiah I kidded you all that I could be.
“Know all these things, lads, and the truth will set you free. Or something.”
Or, does he say:
“This game is made for you. You are Chelsea’s worst nightmare. Your dip was inevitable, because being as brilliant as you were was never meant to take you through a whole season unbeaten. But, as inevitable as the bad spell, is the power and greatness of your next surge upwards.
“It is a surge that can begin tonight against Chelsea, if you will it to be so. When you have faced the best you have always shown that you are better. When you play like you can play, you carry all of Anfield with you. Together, Chelsea won’t be able to live with us.”
Philippe Coutinho looks across that room and sees his best mate Bobby Firmino. Together they have plundered goals this season. Sadio Mane is back there too. He scores when he wants. He will surely provide that missing five per cent. When this trio gel, they are the best in the country. Their manager will remind them of this.
He might also observe that behind them are all his first choice picks. Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, James Milner, alongside the promising Trent Alexander-Arnold. In midfield Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana have been the starts this season and have both been missed when not available. They are available now, though. At this most pivotal juncture of the season.
Matip – Henderson – Lallana – Coutinho – Firmino – Mane. The planets are aligning once more.
Chelsea are smoking cigars and laughing at all of this. They have been imperious. Fair play to them. They will know though, in a part of their psyches that their boss Antonio Conte has got them to brilliantly suppress, that they are vulnerable. They are particularly vulnerable against their peers.
Liverpool beat them at Stamford Bridge, and Arsenal whopped them 4-0. Tottenham defeated them soundly recently, and Manchester City (despite losing) totally outplayed Chelsea. Only Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United have been put firmly in their place by the Champions-elect.
To this end, this game is in Liverpool’s hands. If we can remember how to win, how to be Klopp’s Liverpool once more, then we will take the points. Chelsea will be measured, calm, work hard and be tactically perfect. Liverpool can be a whirling dervish, though. A crazed Wolverine of a team.
I’ve made you think, haven’t I? It can be done. It might not be done, but why should we even contemplate that?
Three points or death.
The immortal Reds: Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Henderson, Can, Lallana; Coutinho, Mane, Firmino.
Kick-off: 8pm live on BT Sport 1
Last Match: Chelsea 1 Liverpool 2
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Odds: Liverpool 13-8, Draw 47-20, Chelsea 2-1