I’M fairly sure I have never celebrated a goal as little as I did yesterday.
When Liverpool’s equaliser went in I stood and clapped four times. Four times. One clap, two claps, three claps, four claps. No joy, no relief, no nothing. The only feeling knocking about was anger. The goal felt a bit like we were cheating. One of the most undeserved goals we have ever scored if we are honest with ourselves.
Liverpool, first half, were as bad as could possibly be imagined. No fight, no guile, no bottle, no quality; no redeeming features, just 11 scaredy-cats drifting around a pitch getting bullied by a team of massive wools. Think about that for a minute. Burnley, however you look at it, are shite. They have earned two points away from home all season. They’ve got a big southern doorman as a manager, a load of big lads, and Joey Barton waddling around centre midfield like he has invented and signed himself on Champ manager, in absolute defiance to rational thought. And yet the Reds, these Reds who in their last two home games ran and bullied the legs off of North London’s finest two sides, could not muster a shot, or a passage of play worth a carrot.
Sometimes — quite often, actually — football comes down to a battle of wills, a fight between one side and the other. Sometimes, you have to earn the right to play. It’s not a saying that’s formed out of thin air; people say it for a reason. You, as an individual player have to win a battle against your direct opponent to earn the right to play football. Your team-mates have to also do the same. That means you kick them, you get in their ear, you poke them, shout at them, tell the ref on them, stick your finger in them, beat them to the ball, beat them full-stop and kick them again until they sort of acknowledge the point you are making and then you can play.
Burnley, first half, won their battles, all over the pitch, with the possible exception of the lad who was up against Sadio Mane. That, from a Liverpool perspective, isn’t good enough. In fact, it’s unforgivable.
Just before half-time, I was all for selling and never seeing again at least nine of the starting 11. Seems harsh that, doesn’t it? In my mind the very least any Liverpool team needs to do is to fight. It’s a pre-requisite. There was too much of an acceptance of what was happening to them. A resigned collective shrug that this is what happens against bigger, stronger boys. No one on the pitch tried to organise, no one tried to rally their team-mates, no one dished out a bollocking. There was a distinct lack of leadership shown by all in red, too many of whom seem happy to defer all of the above onto the management team.
At half-time I was ready to get off and drown my sorrows until Adam Melia come back from the bar with two beers and a Liverpool lamb pie which he promptly half ate, got infuriated with, had a pitch battle with and lashed in the bin in a show of utter defiance against modern football, lamb pies, Liverpool’s shite side and their worrying lack of winners, Simon Mignolet and the fella whose spec we were trying to nick. Cop for that, you pricks.
Now I wasn’t privy to the discussions that took place in the Liverpool changing room but I’m fairly sure they were probably similar to mine and Adam’s, with the possible exception of Jürgen Klopp not blaming the performance so far and all of the current ills of the Western World on our goalkeeper. Liverpool lamb pies getting lashed all over the place, bollockings dished out left, right and centre, words had.
The second half was better. It wasn’t great, by any stretch, but it was better. Liverpool fought. They won second balls and started to challenge the first half idea that only Burnley were allowed to head it. That was all that was needed. Burnley started to look like what they are; a team of very limited footballers. Liverpool managed to grind out a result without playing at all well. That in itself is a positive. I don’t buy this re-branding of a shite performance as evidence that we are now able to win ugly, though. I will accept it as the first step on a long road but I don’t believe this team will be able to do that consistently enough to win things unless the lack of character on the pitch is dealt with. This squad has too many sheep and not enough lions. When things are not going well there are not enough people on the pitch able to rectify the issues. None of the central defenders on our books communicate enough to get us through 10 minutes in a match. None of the midfielders are able to organise, tighten us up, get us to the half. Too many of them passively allow things to happen to them and look to the bench for intervention.
Put plainly, not enough of the players in our squad are winners. Not enough of the players in our squad have won anything, and know how to win things. That comes from always looking for value in a transfer market that may not be there. Too often we have bought players from teams worse than us. Too often, we have bought players who other teams didn’t want, who had doubts over fitness, or who are happy to be at Liverpool, see it as justification for the hard work put in elsewhere. Who, of our recent signings, has won things? The only one I can think of is James Milner and the reason we ended up getting him was because he was free.
The manager, this year, will have learned much more about his players by the manner of our defeats than he has from our victories. He needs now to buy players of character to improve this side. There is another nonsensical saying that springs to mind here; apparently, you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. No one knows what a sow’s ear even is any more but Liverpool have them in abundance and seem convinced that if you squeeze them hard enough they will magically transform.
Jürgen is good but he is not that good. He has managed to form a purse of sorts out of some manky auld ears. He now needs silk. Loads of frigging silk. There has been a silk embargo for too long in Liverpool. Fenway Sports Group, buy us some fucking silk, please.