There are no excuses and no hiding places. Everybody sees every game. Everybody knows where the bodies are buried.
If this season doesn’t result in the league title then the body wasn’t buried tonight. It was buried against Swansea or Bournemouth. The dirt shovelled on it by tonight’s opponent and their ridiculous 13 game winning run. Tonight was yet another mad game between the top six this season.
These games between the top six this season, not just involving us, have been unbelievably intense, physically, mentally, emotionally. They have been almost eternally draining. Lads ending them shattered, done in. They are in spells utterly chaotic, played at a pace that almost stops quality from emerging. In the end they become so clangingly physical, two separate acts of will, conducted by men driving themselves mad on the sidelines, screaming, urging for one more.
Passing lanes cut off, options closed down. One more, one more, one more. The ball goes dead and these elite footballers often looked one step from retching before going again because that’s what you need to do, how you need to compete.
The most composed centre mid on the pitch today was Jordan Henderson. This is mad. Because he kept booming it. Sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully. But look at the competition, all excellent players but none managed the game. It was unmanageable not least because of them. N’Golo Kante could win it but not keep it, barely able to recycle. Nemanja Matic stood firm but didn’t build. Gini Wijnaldum netted and scrapped, but didn’t find.
The best midfielder, best player in Red on the pitch for me was Emre Can. Albeit operating as much as a siege weapon as an actual footballer. He wrecking balled his way through the game, clattering about to fabulous effect. He didn’t solve a problem, didn’t manage a thing. He caused them, though.
This surely cannot continue, I tell myself. I’ve grown up on the football of control. The more passive control of Gerard Houllier. The more active control of Rafa Benitez. I find it hard to imagine Xabi Alonso playing in these games. Harder still to imagine Didi Hamann (I occasionally entertain myself and imagine Juan Roman Riquelme). They’d have found a way because they are good footballers but I can’t see it. Michael Carrick hooked at Old Trafford against Liverpool after months, years of looking imperious. Yes, he’s 35 but he was reduced to irrelevance when being their most important player before kick-off. Because of this pace. It is relentless.
It’s almost a different sport to Swansea at home. It’s certainly a different game, one Liverpool look a bit better at, broadly speaking. There’s been no intensity, no relentlessness that Liverpool won’t rise to this campaign. Every side that has forced it, Liverpool have forced it harder, gone further, gone one more, one more, one more. Every single time they found a way.
And in most seasons we’d be saying they have given themselves a platform to go on and push for the title. A pathway to circa 65 from 30. But tonight’s visitors have gone at such a clip that all we can do is what you should always try and find a way to do — worry about yourself. Put your points total together. Enjoy the process.
Never take a point at home. Never. But occasionally acknowledge that it happens and find a way to enjoy it. A great free-kick and some awful goalkeeping. A terrible chance missed by Roberto Firmino. A penalty save. Twenty-two genuinely good footballers, a cracking atmosphere because people chose to make one. Your night is what you make it. You choose. You opt in or you opt out. Let’s stay opted in, for us all. I told you Tuesday was everything, everything in your whole life. I meant it. This thing of ours — sweet as a nut, sweet like tropicana. We can make it that way. We can scream in a fourth official’s face. Get you a man who can do both.
Fifteen more hurdles. Fifteen more nights out. Fifteen more parties. Fifteen more great performances from The Reds hopefully. Take the intensity to Hull. They have our points. No excuses. No hiding places. Everyone back in the fold. Everyone fit. Everyone exhausted. For us.
Up the nobody can beat us Reds. That’s every team talk for me.