THREE years to the day since the best 20 minutes of your life.
Liverpool beat Arsenal 5-1 on this day in 2014. The first 20 minutes were the best 20 minutes of your life or you just aren’t doing it right. Your life I mean — you aren’t doing your life right. When the fourth went in it wasn’t so much greeted with a cheer as hysterical laughter. Liverpool went into the game eight points behind Arsenal at the top, a league season which hadn’t quite come off the rails but which would to all intents and purposes be over should Arsenal get a result they were more than capable of. Our record against Arsenal at home at this stage wasn’t the best. Liverpool simply had to win the game to maintain their presence in the battle at the top but they didn’t win. They scaled the absolute heights. All pre-match nerves turned into sheer joy. The most powerful joy. Moisted eyes and wide mouthed joy. It was celestial football. Twenty minutes which did everything you ever needed football to do. Walk around those Reds.
Three years to the day since the biggest statement of intent I can remember from a Liverpool team.
Eight off the top. At home to top. Doing that to top. On the telly. At Saturday lunchtime. I always wonder about how everyone else felt across that weekend. Did you see Liverpool? Did you see what Liverpool did? Did you? Did you see them? In red. On the telly. On fire. A blaze. Liverpudlian hearts ablaze. It was early February and Liverpool said this is how good we are. How good we can be? How good can you be?
Three years to the day since the best goal that was never scored in Red.
I watch that Luis Suarez effort that hit the post at least once a week. It is everything I ever wanted in life. At the weekend everyone was banging on about Eden Hazard’s goal but did you see the goal scored by the new Southampton lad?! He absolutely wellied it. It’s the goal of the weekend by a million miles. He kicked it about as hard as I have ever seen anyone kick it, maybe as hard as Suarez kicked it, swirling round against Arsenal. Someone kicking the ball unbelievably hard and accurately could well now be the most underrated thing in football. Someone striking it so true. Because as much as I can’t do stepovers and my control is rubbish, I really can’t strike it like that. It’s football made superhuman in the most basic way. It’s Usain Bolt. Did you see how fast he ran? Did you see how hard he kicked that? Did you?
Three years to the day since Ste Gerrard decided he really was going to finish this season with his best football.
As discussed before there are three ages of Steven Gerrard. This game was Gerrard’s third age coming to fruition, coming alive. Less than three weeks ago he had had one of the worst performances of his career against Aston Villa. It was my birthday night out. All the talk was someone had been around the players lounge post-match and Gerrard was sat alone, shaking his head watching the highlight back. Gerrard was broken. Done. Hahaha! Yeah, right. Gerrard went away and thought about things, the intelligent footballer and intelligent man he was and then he decided to work it all out and he just put Arsenal in his back pocket. All of their tricky attacking midfielders bounced off him. He tackled everything that moved and gave it so very quickly. Four days later he took his top off against Fulham because he knew even when our own greybearded were terrified.
Three years to the day since Arsenal were broken away from home.
What Liverpool did to Arsenal three years ago remains something that Arsenal have simply not got over. Since then, away from home against a big side they have managed to get a 1-0 win at Spurs at the back end of this 2013-14 season and a win against a Manuel Pellegrini-depressed Manchester City. Bar that they have done nothing, have been scaredy cats. Liverpool dismantled them so completely that Arsene Wenger hasn’t really yet managed to put them back together again. Arsenal were top going into this game and as soon as the final whistle went, it was crystal clear Liverpool were going to finish ahead of them. They were so superior to them. Everyone in the ground knew it. Every Arsenal player knew it.
Three years to the day since we saw Brendan Rodgers’ football come to fruition in almost the most glorious way imaginable.
Are we allowed to say this yet? Or will the ghouls all come back out? Rodgers’ commitment to his type of football remains something which would lead to him being hailed as a mad genius were he not a Norn Iron lad curiously concerned by his own appearance called Bren. Familiarity breeds contempt — Rodgers’ football and eventual painful failure is very much reminiscent of the record of someone like Marcelo Bielsa. But he lacks the wider mystique and public charisma of Bielsa. What he does, in essence, is make attacking footballers far, far, far better at playing attacking football and this was its epoch, taking top of the league to the absolute cleaners. It wasn’t on the break, it was his team being far, far, far better at football than their opponents. That he finally fell off his own high wire shouldn’t undo the majesty, grace and sheer hysteria of when he was doing cartwheels upon it. If you want to be a ghoul go and do it somewhere else. Thanks!
Three years to the day since one of the great days and nights out of my life.
Out at 11am, home after 2am. Too old for that sort of thing, the sort of thing which keeps you eternally young.
I still remember it, you know. I still think about it, all the time, like the shot bouncing off Kolo Toure. It feels like I saw 60 per cent of my favourite people in the whole wide world. It feels like I had a drink, a cuddle, a crazy smile with everyone. A London Road pub crawl led by Brockle and Graves, looping round. Top end and toppling down the hill. Cambridge, Ye Cracke, Bier. You know the drill. You will have had your own fabulous time. Everyone was funny and everyone was pretty. And everyone was coming towards the centre of the city. The dance floor was crowded, the bathrooms were worse. We kissed in your car and we drank from your purse. You know the drill. The idea. Just overwhelming. A win always helps. Imagine what that win did.
Three years to the day.
Well in, Liverpool. Great set of lads. The point of everything. Joy unconfined.