FOOTBALL is a bit mad, isn’t it?
Essentially, it’s 90 minutes of chaos and luck which is decided one way or another by a handful of defining moments. Whether a team wins, loses or draws comes down to their number 10 curling in a freekick, three players keeping their cool at vital moments on a counter attack, or the opposition striker missing a penalty.
Liverpool have played Leicester away from home in each of their last two games, across two different competitions. In both games, Liverpool have impressively imposed themselves on the home team in the first half, dominating the game and creating a heap of scoring chances.
In the League Cup, Liverpool’s reward for this dominance was a 2-0 defeat, while on Saturday in the league, The Reds emerged from the King Power with a 2-3 win and all three points.
While we all felt pretty great about taking three points from a tough away, and all felt at least slightly pissed off to have been knocked out of the League Cup in the manner we were, the truth is that it would have taken very little for either or both of those results to have been reversed.
What is it about The Reds that sees them play in games like this so often? Where the margin for error is zero and the gap between triumph and disaster razor thin, but a chasm at the same time? Why can’t Liverpool just make it easy on us?
A lot can be attributed to the way in which The Reds set up under Jürgen Klopp.
Liverpool do not win games like, say, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City win games. City win games by death by a thousand cuts; pass, after pass, after pass, each pulling and dragging an opponent’s defenders just far enough to allow a killer ball through.
For City, the object of the game is the ball. The ball allows them control and control allows them to win. Such is Guardiola’s demand for control that he divides the pitch into 20 different sections, with each pass and each piece of movement requiring different responses from the players in different squares.
For Liverpool, the object is goals. This may sound simple or reductive, but hear me out. The Reds don’t need or necessarily want as much of the ball as City get, for example. They certainly don’t want the type of possession City have. Where order rules for Guardiola and City, Klopp’s Liverpool thrives in anarchy.
Liverpool come in waves; huge, destructive waves crashing into a defence, seeking goals. They have mastered the art of the big five, the big 10.
When the momentum of the red wave builds and builds, it can be irresistible. When it is rewarded with one goal, a second and third are hunted down with ravenous appetite. It is not for nothing that The Reds won the most points from losing positions in the Premier League last season (18).
The ferocity at which they play can completely demoralise and humiliate opponents across the space of 10-15 minutes. Case in point; the Champions League qualifier second leg against Hoffenheim. Three goals across a thrilling first 20 minutes killed the game and sapped the will of the visiting side, who had to face a further 70 minutes under the glare of the Anfield lights.
There have been countless examples since Klopp took over; when Liverpool have so thoroughly outplayed an opponent that they have reduced 60 or 70 minutes of a match to mere formality.
The problem with waves is that they ebb as well as peak. The Reds are relentless until they relent. And if the peak hasn’t left Liverpool comfortably ahead, the opponent will always fancy their chances.
Like Dr. No, no matter how good The Reds look, there will be enough faffing around to give Sean Connery the chance to escape and put us on our arses.
To illustrate that point; The Reds lost 18 points from winning positions in the Premier League last season, the same amount as they gained from losing positions. Until they are over the hills and far away with the win and the three points, Liverpool are not out of the woods.
Last week, The Reds wasted chance after chance and allowed Leicester the control of the game’s two decisive moments. No matter how irresistible they looked at times, the scoreline spoke of a definitive result.
Liverpool were just ruthless enough at the crest of their waves on Saturday evening, the goals they got were just enough for them to keep their noses ahead of Leicester at the death. Through Mo Salah, Phil Coutinho and Jordan Henderson, The Reds had their say in the game’s defining moments.
This is the tightrope which this manager prefers to walk. We saw at the back end of last season that he can set up this team to be gnarly, to eek out tough results. But you know that isn’t how he would choose to play.
Regardless of how solid, or otherwise, his defence is, Klopp has shown he has a preference for organised chaos, the anarchy of the crest of a red wave, over any boring, more functional tactic.
Rather than inflicting death by a thousand cuts, you get the sense that Klopp would much rather to take an opponent’s head clean off with one clean sweep of his sword.
For better or for worse, this approach will define Klopp’s Liverpool. For as long as the German retains the support of the fans and Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool will ride the waves of momentum. Results like Wednesday night are merely collateral damage in this side’s pursuit of anarchic, chaotic perfection.
Liverpool walk the tightrope between thrilling success and brow furrowing failure. It’s safer for us all if we just buckle in and try to enjoy the ride.
We dissected Liverpool’s performance against Leicester in depth on The Review, which is available to TAW Player subscribers. If you don’t subscribe, why not give it a go for just a fiver a month? A subscription also gives you access to our podcast archive – here are some of the highlights so far…