IT suddenly all looked so hard. When it had looked easy. At least relatively easy. Too often this is a Liverpool side on top until they aren’t. And too often a Liverpool side failing to make hay when the sun shines.
The sun shone on Liverpool against Leicester. They utterly dominated the first period and created more than enough clear-cut chances to go in two up. Instead they were none up. As against Burnley, as against Sevilla, they didn’t have their just deserts.
And as against Burnley, as against Sevilla, they did have their just deserts come the end of the contest. They deserve a point by the end of both of those games. Here they deserved to lose because they got worse, far worse, as the contest wore on. Two goals conceded but, on a far more concerning note, none scored.
The game turned on a substitution. Not Phil Coutinho off but Shinji Okazaki on. Suddenly Leicester found themselves and their endeavour and their shape. Everything made sense for them when he came on. Everyone had 10 per cent more, everyone was galvanised. The last phase of the whole game saw Okazaki picking the ball up in the right-back position. He was everywhere, the most underrated cog of the 2016 title win demonstrating how he was part of feeling like Leicester had 12 week in, week out.
None of that is to relieve this Liverpool side of responsibility. Okazaki isn’t Leo Messi. He isn’t unplayable. The worry is that the feeling persists Liverpool find their football a tiny bit unplayable when under the cosh. Everything becomes hard and becomes laboured when there isn’t the valve of goals to release it. This wouldn’t be the first Liverpool side to become claustrophobic of themselves. There has been quite the litany across the last 20 years of sides who have found what should work suddenly, painfully not. Disjointed becoming dislocated and equalling disillusioned.
The main way things should work though is footballers turning the ball into the net. It cures everything that ills you. Buy goals. Have goals. Score goals. Goals equal belief, equal love, become energy. Goals are the lifeblood of a football team and the savage reality is that Liverpool haven’t scored enough of them against sides that finished between eighth and 20th last season in our league in all competitions. Talk to me about defenders as much as you like. About defensive errors. Liverpool aren’t putting the round thing in the rectangular thing with sufficient regularity. Far from it.
There are reasons to be optimistic. Andy Robertson, for instance. His delivery was excellent but his movement even better. He emerged into space rather than exploded into it. There are reasons to just laugh. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain kicking it into touch. Laugh because not laughing gives that sort of thing power it shouldn’t have. But Oxlade-Chamberlain has had a relatively torrid first week as a Liverpool player. Hopefully it gets better than this for him.
It’s a competition worth winning but it is also a competition worth going out of early if you aren’t going to win it. That is:
b) Easy to say
c) Absolutely no comfort whatsoever
The lads in Red are your lads, our lads. Watching those lads toil away and not get results hurts. Watching similar shortcomings from recent games hurts. It may be better to go out now than January but it should never be the case that any Liverpool defeat offers succour to any Liverpool supporter. I’m sick of the same shortcomings at both ends of the pitch.
This thing of ours. The pressure never stops piling on and Saturday piles it on even more. Liverpool need to be a whirling dervish and sweep Leicester away, up in their air, devastate everything in their path. Liverpool need to be a force of nature and not a victim of circumstance. Liverpool need to be intense. Not least because this thing is intense. I’d like some emotional football where the main emotional response I get isn’t hollowness.
Seriously, let’s go Liverpool.