UP there with the biggest win of the season, that. Make no bones about it.
Regardless of its importance, that was one of the best victories so far — don’t even think about knocking your bone ingredients all about yourself. Mad phrase that, isn’t it? Make no bones about it. It just popped into my head. One of them little quirks of the English language, I can’t get it out of my mind now. I’ve spent the last 10 minutes, instead of writing this thing, looking at its origin, googling bones, using it in various sentences.
“Do you want anything whilst I’m up?” “Yer go ‘ed, get me a massive glass of red wine and make no bones about it being a particular favourite.”
If you are interested by the way, it apparently dates back to the fourteenth century when everyone was made up to get a bowl of soup without bones in, or something.
Speaking of bones and boneheads, what about big Tony Pulis, eh? One of the better baldies in modern day football with the rest being a horrible bunch of awful referees. People don’t like Pulis. I love him. I think he is a genius. Genuinely, and I’m not being funny here, I think he is a genius. He is an unbelievably skilled manager.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t ever want to support a team who he managed, but he can influence a match well more than most of his peers. He is able to reduce this joyous, fluent, unpredictably brilliant game of ours into a series of individual battles, with every single separate action counting as a duel that must be won or at least challenged without exception.
Pulis has worked out a strategy to genetically engineer the game of football into a combination of chess and wrestling (not the WWF or whatever it is these days, the weird one that they do in the Olympics that AC Slater out of Saved by the Bell was boss in, where the fellas look like they are trying to have a good sniff of each other’s bits).
He has basically deconstructed football into a series of collisions, a bit like the Hadron Collider on a pitch with less room than in his snug-fitting cap — and seeing as though his cap is fuller than an egg that is a pretty impressive.
It is almost impossible to play against. It is a hostile environment in that it is quiet; like having a fight in a vacuum. Every challenge, decision, pass, is a toss of a coin. The pressure on our full-backs and centre backs was relentless when in possession, their game plan designed to turnover possession so they can have a go at getting up the pitch for a set piece or just giving us it back so they can get behind the ball again.
Every immediate passing option blocked, six at the back, three in front, one in centre mid and a shitload of fouls — niggly fouls, tussles, wrestles — and, when the Reds stood up for themselves, a fair bit of arlarse diving to get a free kick. Pulis, as I said, is a genius. Make no bones about it.
What you can make bones about though is the Reds’ apparent weakness in games like this. This was a nailed on, prime example of the type of game that has hurt us so much this season.
Twenty minutes gone, a stat pops up stating our possession was over 70 per cent and the first thought entering my head was: “Oh good, we are going to get beat 2-0 aren’t we?”
The fact we didn’t is testament to the players on the pitch, their willingness to get their hands dirty and fight for the result, and a couple of players either end of the pitch digging us out when needed. Up there with the best wins of the season, as I said.
One of the main criticisms of the Reds when we have lost in games like this this season is that we haven’t had a real number nine to get us out the shit when the game is up for grabs and we haven’t had a keeper who can make a save that affects the outcome of the game.
I have said, repeatedly, that Big Si and his Mig head is not a good enough keeper for the Reds. My view was based on his lack of ability over the last three years to control his defence, command his box or make a save of note that has kept us in a game. That might be harsh. It might not.
As recently as eight weeks ago I said I would never play him for Liverpool again and would fuck him off in the summer. Since then he has been, pretty much, brilliant. Now I’m not saying it is directly related or not but you know, it’s a bit of a frigging coincidence isn’t it, Si? Seriously though, he has pretty much won — saved us — five points in the last two matches with three brilliant bits of keeping.
His command of his box has been better, his communication is getting better and there seems to be more trust in him from the defence. Did he used to be a bit rubbish? Absolutely. Is he well better now? Absolutely. Am I a tit who knows nothing about footie? Almost certainly. Is he the long-term solution? If he carries on playing like this then yes, but then what the fuck are you asking me for given all of the above?
66 – Liverpool have won 66 points from 33 games this season; six more than they picked up in the entirety of 2015/16. Progression.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 16, 2017
And what of the elite level centre forward who can bang one in given the merest hint of a chance? What of him — the man who pulls the Reds out of shit when the game can go either way? That’s what the Reds are missing, isn’t it?
Firmino was brilliant. He put two chances on a plate for his mates, gambled for his goal when he should have done, worked his plums off and didn’t even play up front. He won the ball back, won his headers, lashed their lads all over the place and earned the right to do what he wants.
The other difference the last few weeks? Emre Can. Big hard, energetic, mobile and commanding. Bollocking his team-mates when needed, lashing West Brom wrestlers all over the gaff, offering stature and a presence — he looks every inch the player he did last year and makes you worry a little bit more about his contract situation than we were a couple of weeks ago.
Finally, nothing puts the top hat on an away Easter Sunday victory more than the sight of Albie Moreno coming on to sure us up at the back.
Everywhere he goes chaos ensues — imagine his house. No wonder he can’t concentrate. He’s unlucky with the open goal. There is absolutely no way he knows in his head that Dan Sturridge was offside, he just wanted to score and in front of that end who would blame him?
Make no bones about it, boys, the Reds are on the march again. What’s not to love about that?