LAST week we weren’t happy with Jürgen Klopp and his gang of defeated urchins. This week Klopp wasn’t happy with us and our gaggle of silent urchins.
Thankfully the team on the pitch won comfortably, but we got absolutely slaughtered by Huddersfield Town in the fan game. Even if most of their chants were as Football League as Football League gets, they were at least loud and plentiful.
Living down south, I don’t get to as many games as I wish I could. This past weekend though I was determined to make it as enjoyable as possible, even if The Reds have made it difficult to relish the footie in recent times.
It started by spending nearly two hours on the M25, followed by further holdups on the M40, M42 and M6. By the time I reached Liverpool I’d spent seven-and-a-half hours doing a journey that usually takes no more than five. I was not a happy camper, but I’d soon be watching The Reds, so all would shortly be forgiven.
Needless to say at half time I was one of those in the concourse using more swear words than non-swear words to describe the team. It’s amazing how much more you think they owe you when you’ve had a bad journey to watch them, as if they know that and have taken it into consideration heading into the game.
“We were going to play slow and steady to try and break down their low block, but Dave’s had a shit time between the M6 toll and the M62 so let’s just press high and try to blow them out the water with high energy entertainment.”
If you could lads, that’d be smashing.
Not to worry, the second half Reds did just that, the little teases.
What was most satisfying about the win, or at least the nature of it, was how routine and yet not routine it felt. Liverpool have spent their season allowing bad fortune to consume them and punish them at every turn. Every league win (apart from Arsenal) has been a laboured struggle, goals have flowed against us, and chance after chance has been missed at crucial times. When Mo Salah had his penalty saved, it felt like another inevitable chapter in the same story.
Then in the second half, a ball from Alberto Moreno, a run from Roberto Firmino and one forced moment of good luck later saw Daniel Sturridge open the scoring, and it was as if a towel had been lifted from the team’s heads. A realisation that it doesn’t have to be this way, and Liverpool set about being much better than Huddersfield at everything and putting them to the sword.
It was a 3-0 home win against, with all due respect, the sort of team Liverpool should be beating 3-0 every time we play them, and yet hardly ever seem to. That was only the third time Liverpool have won 3-0 at home in the league since the start of 2015-16, and the other two were in pressure games against a very good Manchester City side and the crucial victory over Middlesbrough on the last day of last season. Other home wins have either been much closer affairs, or utter thrashings.
Of course you could argue that the pressure was just as much on in this game given the fallout from last week’s drab showing at Wembley. Fans needed a response, and belatedly, they got one. That could be the reason for the poor atmosphere that barely raised to more than a feint “Fields of Anfield Road” at any point from what I could hear way up in the Main Stand, although obviously did improve once the goals came.
As Huddersfield fans threatened to break the “bant-o-meter” by singing “is this a library?” I almost felt compelled to reply “No it’s not, but coincidentally I do have copies of my new book if you’re interested? It’s called Kloppite: One Man’s Quest to turn Doubters into Believers, available from all good book shops now.” But that sort of shameless plug is below me quite frankly…
The comments from both managers after the game about the lack of noise out of the home fans wasn’t surprising, but equally, the lack of noise shouldn’t have been all that surprising for Klopp in particular. He’s been here long enough to know that we love our club and if given any excuse, will back them to the hilt and cheer them on with all our lung capacity. However, unlike in Germany where most grounds are just a humming wall of noise, not really raising or dipping through the 90 minutes, we in England are much more reactionary. There has to be a catalyst, and it should have been obvious to anyone that losing like we did to Tottenham Hotspur, and then playing as insipidly as we did in the first half on Saturday was never going to be the spur to any noise other than a shout of “Sake, Reds!”
As much as we’d all love it to be, support from the stands in England is not unconditional. It works very much on a “give a little, get a little” policy, and it’s not just at Anfield. Think of the best, most vocal fans in the country, and they will be as silent as anything coming off drab defeats and being subjected to lifeless performances in games expected to be plain sailing. It’s not ideal but it’s just who we are. It’s how we work.
However, showings like the one in the second half will help. The slight fortune of the goal changed the game and mood of both teams entirely. I watched the game back last night and some of the football in the second half was electric. Confidence and a slightly more open opposition does wonders. Even all three substitutes came into the game seamlessly, with Emre Can and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain playing key roles in the third goal, while Dominic Solanke showed nice touches and could well have grabbed a goal if he’d had more confidence on his left foot.
Picking up points without making a drama about it is going to be vital this season. After all the somewhat justified doom and gloom, one routine win over Huddersfield later and we’re now sixth (unless Newcastle can win at Burnley tonight). We’re all of a sudden three points closer to Tottenham. A victory over a very poor looking West Ham next weekend sees us make up points on at least two of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City heading into the international break.
One win does not mean we’ve turned a corner, but you can’t turn a corner until you’ve started to turn, and wins over West Ham and Southampton in our next two would see us on 22 points from 12 games, almost two points a game and not bad at all on paper. That takes us into Chelsea at Anfield and hopefully a big performance both on and off the pitch. We’ll have Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane back by then, the sky will be bright, the flowers will smell nicer and The Reds will be mustard, and most importantly, we’ll all love one another again.
And then Jürgen, then we will sing. And boy will we sing.
Up the routine Reds.