INNER Chimp everywhere. Inner Chimp may never get back in. Inner Chimp could be out for days off the back of this. When will my heart stop racing. When Sebastian Prodl’s effort bounces off the bar it felt like the start and the end of everything. Heart attack as effort on goal. The grace of god descending on the Reds. The trickiest, gnarliest of Reds.
They love a scrap this Liverpool team. They rise to the challenge of a scrap. Let’s not mess about — Watford wanted a scrap. They came not to play but to leave one on Liverpool. You could smell it on them from the first whistle. Their new fragrance — Teamtalk by Troy. There wasn’t a blade of grass on the pitch which wasn’t competitive, every area of the pitch tight, every Liverpool player needing to earn the right to play. Challenges were rattled into, two lads off injured early and many others rubbing limbs.
The approach from Watford was one which many managers and almost all supporters would endorse. But it was counter productive. They couldn’t get near the Liverpool goal for 70 minutes, and while they made it hard for the Reds, Liverpool forced the issue to score one and a half of the goals of the season. Simply stopping a football match from breaking out by walloping people might seem the better approach but it was the approach taken by West Brom, Stoke to a lesser but significant extent and Everton, if we are all being honest. Crystal Palace stood off Liverpool, asked them questions and broke with intent. They got their reward. The others? The others scrapped. But the thing is this:
They love a scrap this Liverpool team.
They may well love it a tiny little bit too much. They haven’t shown a ton of being able to rise above, quite possibly because they don’t want to. Liverpool’s shape was excellent. It wasn’t conducive to playing football of the gods but this isn’t the task at this stage. It’s worth stressing this, though — some more quality from Liverpool between the break and the 70th minute may well have seen the Reds out of sight and far more comfortable, indeed, chances ever missed in any event. Instead, Liverpool bedded in for the battle. Liverpool, slogging their way to the Champions League.
Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, let it not be said that this group of players lack fight and bottle. The last three away performances have shown exactly what this side is about. If they don’t make the Champions League it will be because they aren’t good enough, not because they don’t fight hard enough. Not because they don’t want it enough. If they don’t make the Champions League let’s talk about tempo, not balls. They have tons of the latter. They need to improve at the former. Tempo will be worth talking about regardless. It’s the main thing that needs to be worked on.
The winning goal — a thing of beauty. Emre Can’s acrobatic effort the moment of truest quality in the game. Can loves this scrap as much as anyone, the handsome devil. Walloping and getting walloped and not a hair out of place. The goal should be marked down, discussed when we are 100, should it get Liverpool where they need to be this summer. Parabolic curves everywhere, the ball in the net, Liverpool in excelsis deo.
Can aside, the major winner from the game was the defensive shape; the manager, his coaching team, his players. Watford made it hard but Liverpool’s clever shape made it very possible. Players were doubling up, dropping in, getting themselves back where they needed to be. Liverpool were tough to break against, tough to build play against. Every player had a mate nearby when he needed him.
The Mig pulled another massive away performance out, too. He came for everything he could and offered everyone confidence. He gave the Inner Chimp confidence and that is saying something. These are strange days and strange games. They exist to create more great days, not to be great days in and of themselves. Third is a thing to be, but not a thing to celebrate. But the summer and the nights that follow are what the blood is the most up for — Liverpool bringing the fine wine to the European banquets. It makes the release harder, the run-in tougher in a sense. Normally I’d be bouncing into the idea of another game tomorrow if it is all on the line. Not now, not with this Liverpool, not when they are going for what they are going for.
We lose our heads too easily, too often with this side. We mistake these footballers and presume our rivals are better than they are, than we are. They aren’t. Only Spurs and Chelsea have been better than this side and Spurs have shown that last eight weeks. United, Arsenal and City drop points all the time.
There are three games to go. Three more hurdles to overcome. Three more times to find a way to do the business. My Inner Chimp needs to wind his neck in because these Reds will do everything they can. They are scrappers, they are gnarly, they are good footballers. They are Liverpool players, part forged in this quasi-run-in.
They will do for me today. They will really do for me.
Up the 0-1 Reds. Scrappy Doo.