STOP it, Liverpool. Just stop it. I have had enough of the nonsense around Liverpool lacking ruthlessness at both ends of the pitch; had enough of the nonsense inviting ruthlessness from opponents who deserve credit for hanging in but too often little else.
Stop it. Stop making it easy, stop showing the way. Stop knocking off on the edge of your own area, letting crosses come in. Stop stepping over the ball attempting to kick it on the edge of your own six-yard box. Stop not digging each other out. Stop missing clear-cut opportunities, e.g. penalties. Stop it. Stop being so very hard to play against until you are so very easy. Stop having two gears — great and shite. Just pack it in.
In the post-match show I have a chat with Ben Johnson about this side, this football team who can be irresistible, who you can love so easily and hate so fast. We talk about how this Liverpool side is on the verge of greatness but never has the other side of the verge felt quite so far away. It’s as likely, more likely perhaps the side eternally falls short. It feels that way this evening, perhaps unfairly. And yet. What should have been a win to build a season on against Arsenal hasn’t acted as a springboard. The season is oh so young but as this column has made clear before, this isn’t our first rodeo. I’ve seen this film. It’s half decent, don’t get me wrong. And yet.
And yet. Liverpool have undressed another side from a major European league who finished in a similar position to them in their league for the second time this season. They are almost certainly better than Sevilla and tonight was a game the suspicion remains they would win seven times out of 10.
You could have said that after the Europa League final. As ever, LOL at me.
The truth of the matter is we sit waiting for this football team of ours to find its way to the performances and results they should be capable of, the irresistibility they could deliver. We sit waiting and until then we dissect.
We dissect a centre midfield where Emre Can was poor for long stretches before being occasionally good in moments, a centre midfield where Gini Wijnaldum has an excellent 45 before an utterly anonymous 45 and a centre midfield where, opening goal aside, Jordan Henderson is that notch below his own average at best. Mediocre in reality. Each offering a five out of 10 in different, equally disappointing ways. Lovely variation Reds. Each better than this. Collectively less than the sum of their slightly flat parts.
The first half belonged to Albie Moreno. Sets up the first, does brilliantly for the penalty. He’s all action and no composure and makes things happen because Liverpool. Albie here, Albie there. Albie the wrong side. Albie making it happen.
The second goal Liverpool concede sees no one sit in when Henderson gets dragged out (too easily) and no Liverpool player even thinks to drop in. Liverpool are played through the middle of.
Bobby Firmino marvellous, missing penalties. Mo Salah marvellous, missing chances. Sadio Mane marvellous, missing a little bit of something tonight. You can do this everywhere.
This season has so many possibilities right now. So many. That is both a positive and a negative.
This thing of ours. Spent too much time on a knife edge, on a tight rope. We’ve chosen this one. Stop it, Reds. Stop messing about. Walk it. You are more than capable of that.