THIS break has been shit, hasn’t it? Tell yourself it’s been anything but and you’re wrong, writes DAN BEALE.
Sixteen days without football when things should be starting to fall into place, strides firmly hit, is not enjoyable at all. It’s a long time to wait at any stage of the year but it’s heightened further when everyone else around you plays before we go again. Playing and, so far, winning. A relentless ticking through competitions. Weaving. Relentless, Red-less.
Cups, domestic and European, have come and gone, seven Premier League games yet to be played and a cup final that, make no bones about it, we should be competing in. All before we play again. This should be the build-up to Wembley, but it’s not. The first trophy of the season will be gone by the time we play. First hand shown. Cards on the table.
We’ve got no-one to blame but ourselves, of course. This isn’t the usual case of an ill-timed international break playing havoc with your Saturday. No, this is far worse. This is a consequence of a poor January. An obligatory Daniel Sturridge scare (albeit illness) was even thrown in for good measure.
And my god, it still feels like ages until we play again.
Monday night against Leicester feels like a punishment. Not the game itself — I can’t wait to see us fly out the traps fresh from this chasm in our season — but the timing of the game. Sixteen days passed. Idly passed at that. An inordinate amount of time to wait at this stage of the season.
At this mid-point of having no game, and after looking like hitting our stride again against Spurs, it feels like we’re being wrapped on the knuckles. Punished. Performing well once after a sustained period of falling short wasn’t enough to save ourselves from this gap. We’ve done this to ourselves.
It’s been shit. We’ll take little from this break, as fans, other than the desire not to have a break in our season at this stage again. No, I’m quite done with self-inflicted breaks. I want to see us flying out week in, week out. As often as possible, on all fronts.
And, despite the clear-to-see bonus of a little regroup and a bit of sunshine, I hope the players know it too. It’s massively important that they take this on board. They can’t just come away with fresh legs, fresh minds and an impetus to finish well. No, this is our own fault. They need to harvest this feeling of shit that is currently chipping away as we wait. And wait.
Jürgen Klopp is a manager who plays on emotion. He embodies the word and encompasses it within his sides. By all means get the tactical work done during the break. Heads together, new ideas. Energise legs and turn the style back on from when we were the best and hardest working side in the league. But the players must use the frustration of not playing. Take it and use it to finish the season strong and not find ourselves in this position again.
Take all the teams around you playing in the latter stages of the FA Cup, see what would have been a great tie and, if successful, a favourable draw in the quarters.
Take the first trophy of the season being dished out in a League Cup final, one that you know in your heart of hearts you should be in. One that would have pitted us against Manchester United. The last time we played them in a final was 2003. Turned out alright, didn’t it?
Take the Champions League knockout stages getting underway. Big teams, big games. Big European nights. Did you see Manchester City last night? Of course you did. That should have been us. That’s our bag. Ridiculous nights running amok with passion and nonsense.
Take it in as footballers. Take it all in and harvest that desire. Keep it within. Leave it bubbling, and use it.
Take the fact that you’re footballers and no matter how much you’ve enjoyed the break, you’re a footballer. You want to play competitively. Training is just the gateway to the big event; the match. And when that match is 16 days away, it’s got to sting. Just like it’s been a sting to us.
Come back from La Manga absolutely chomping. Ideas and instructions to display on the field. Thirteen games to win. Fresh. Use that burning desire to get back into the Champions League, to the big stage. Do not let this fizzle out, Reds. Use it all and kick back on. Have a real go at catching the top. It’s no good aiming for the top four, even if we would have taken it before the season, go for the dizzying heights. You all know the cliché.
It’s been a long week and a bit but the worst is now done.
No slow starts. Hammer and tong into everything. Tenacity, creativity, no let up.
This break has been shit. As you were please, Reds.