THERE are days when it just gnaws and gnaws and then suddenly kills.
There have been existential masterpieces which cannot match the sheer profound sense of desolation that last 10 minutes had for Liverpool and the worldwide diaspora of supporters. Feeling both young and old, the sheer impotent fury of the young man and the absolute sense of loss of the widow clashing together, not knowing whether to throw things or collapse; fight the world or submit to it; scream defiance over here, mewl head in hands over there.
It’s only a game, it’s only a job.
There are days when everything degrades in front of you. A football team deservedly and remarkably lead but they cannot hold that lead or extend it. The break comes and they manage to get worse. Substitutions are made and they manage to get worse still. Almost everything that happens in the game weakens them, like they have a half life rather than a lifeline, every event leading to them becoming half as effective and the first event is actually scoring a goal.
It shouldn’t be like this, of course it shouldn’t. Liverpool get their opener and they should kick on but instead a simple ball down the middle undoes them. And knocked off their tightrope they cannot ever properly climb back on and walk unafraid again, instead they stutter as they step. That they are unlucky doesn’t matter. Hard luck, hard lines, hard cheese. The point is that it is hard. Everything worth working for is hard.
It’s only a game, it’s only a job.
The goal is righteous, biblical in its glory, a shot where one shouldn’t be but of course is. It goes the wrong side, the goalkeeper wrong footed by pedigree and it is downright irresistible. No forgiveness has been begged for the summer and nor should it be. Instead just a job is being mostly done, though Philippe Coutinho wasn’t marvellous outside of the marvel, but it is churlish to complain. It was a beachhead, a starting point, something to revel, believe and camp out in all in one. You get one of them outside of your own ground you roll with those punches.
Not for the first time, though — Southampton away in 2016 springs to mind — Liverpool managed not to do that and instead did the opposite. The lead wasn’t reviled in or believed in and they look incapable of camping, certainly when Joel Matip can see the pitch and does absolutely nothing to help the situation. Dejan Lovren disappoints but Matip is desperate until his tackle fails to alleviate the panic, instead the ball trickling into the corner.
It’s only a game, it’s only a job.
Second half there isn’t enough from Liverpool, nothing which allows them to feel properly hard done to as a group of 11. Not a thing which should have them mewling as we are left doing. They couldn’t rise above the melee as they managed last week against Leicester. Chaos wasn’t to be tamed. It wasn’t a question of desire, just that of quality.
Second half Liverpool weren’t quite good enough, however much they may have wanted it. This should be the most startling realisation and it is this which brings on the desolation. This isn’t the first time and it also isn’t the last or final time in that they are more than capable of improvement, but it does no one any favours not to act as though improvement isn’t required. It is. Liverpool are neither attacking nor finishing well enough.
You might not like that. They aren’t controlling games well enough nor are they dictating tempo well enough. You might not like that. They aren’t defending quite well enough in general nor are they dealing with scenarios well enough. You might not like that either.
The point is this: Liverpool aren’t playing well. There isn’t an area of the side which couldn’t improve as it stands and that improvement doesn’t need to be from outside. It can — and needs — to come from within. The manager doesn’t like focus on transfers, well, I agree with him. So be better with the lads who are there. Make them better.
I know it hurts, I know it is hard. I know the ball needs to hit the back of the net and I know the rub of the green is a thing in football, but also overcoming when you aren’t getting it is a thing too. Mature sides manage it, possibly by being mature.
That James Milner doesn’t feature and that both full backs finish the game on the pitch is a mystery to me. Rafa Benitez spent a game wanting Liverpool to pass to Joe Gomez. There is an easy solution to that equation — remove Gomez. Instead Liverpool found Gomez over and over and the easy thing for gobshites like me to do is criticise Gomez for being a centre back playing at right back. Well, let’s dodge that bullet and instead maybe wonder why that player finishes the game.
It isn’t the first time I’ve seen Liverpool sides do that and wonder why the dramatic change isn’t made — Liverpool at home 2008-9, Arbeloa at right back and Rafa Benitez as manager. Every side that came to Anfield that season left Arbeloa as an option and yet Arbeloa always remained one. It was baffling. See tonight.
It’s only a game, it’s only a job.
For us this should be a game, be a leisure activity. Yet football doesn’t allow that — the river never stops flowing around your ankles but you remember how it felt, how you watched it slip away in September 2006 into the league title being none of your business. It’s only a game but it was only a game in the winter of 2011 when Liverpool couldn’t score the goals they deserved but everyone told you they would come, that this was the bad patch, that this will turn and by God did it turn in the league that year, it turned for the worst.
Don’t tell me it evens itself out, this game, don’t give me that blather and blarney. Hard luck stories become sob stories, become sobs, just sobs, no story or certainly not one you want to tell or look back on. Seasons get away from sides, it has been forever thus. They get away from managers too. It happened to Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish, Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier and Benitez. That seasons are new and fresh and live and don’t care for your sense of narrative and timing is nothing new. They disappear, slippery, crystalline, into the distance, impossible to touch, too shiny to stare at.
For them it should be a job, a way of making money. They get paid for this. They are handsomely rewarded. But the thing is you know it isn’t. In the same way they bounced out of Leicester you know the trip back from Newcastle is 14 lads hurting and another one or two (James Milner maybe) planning on having a chat with the manager asking what it takes. But we need them to be professional, to not hurt too much, to get beyond it and move along. We need them to stay in the moment, free of context.
We need what happens one week not to impact the next because right now that doesn’t look the case. Right now they look and feel unlucky and that is downright unacceptable. Hard luck, hard lines, hard cheese. We can think it, they can’t. They must shake that off and instead focus on playing every second to the best of their ability not making decisions based upon previous weeks. I wasn’t designed to go so fast, I wasn’t designed to have so much past. Seasons slip and slide because footballers and football managers let them have too much past, let them go by far too fast. Liverpool need to say no to that.
This thing of ours. It’s only a game. It’s only a job. It’s so much more and it hurts, even when, especially when, you don’t lose. It gnaws and gnaws and suddenly kills. But you get to start again. You get another 90 minutes. 90 minutes at the centre of everything, the lads on the green rectangle, throwing themselves into all that matters, 90 minutes with abandon, the greatest 90 minutes of your life.
See you on October 14. Ready to be hurt, ready to be in excelsis deo. Ready to be alive. It should hurt, it should gnaw and kill. But lads, just walk unafraid. Every moment can belong to you if you can stay in it.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
Like The Anfield Wrap on Facebook
James Milner? Seriously? Hardly a game changer and he’s not a right back. Nothing about that Sturridge miss, I note …..
Poor recruitment in the summer. Failed to deal with the weaknesses in our team. Same old story. Baby steps under FSG since 2010 and still getting no-where near where this great club belongs. Blame Klopp as we blamed Rodgers. The problem remains at the top.
The realisation that Klopp is clueless.
He’s not though is he
I’m in Newcastle airport about to fly home to Dublin. I was sitting in the Newcastle end tonight and couldn’t believe how shit scared they were every time Mane, Salah or Sturridge got the ball. The only thing that outweighed their fear was my frustration tevery time we got on the ball. It’s hard to watch the same thing over and over and reassure yourself that it’ll come good soon. Keep the faith reds! YNWA
I’m done taking this team seriously until they start behaving like a team that wants to be taken seriously. That goal we conceded. It is criminal. And it is nothing new. You lot on TAW keep banging on about how wasteful we are, but how about winning some one nils. That is what top teams do. That is what Chelsea did practically all of last year.
Deflated performance. Not sure what is going on I mean nobody except Coutinho who scored that really good goal had anything to offer.
And I still don’t know what the OX is doing at LFC, and why Klopp brings him on with some minutes to spare?
Lose to United and it will be one step closer to the edge for Jurgen and the fans. Lose to Spurs and it’s Klopp applying for Ancelloti’s job soon.
It’s bad enough the summer was lackluster with the other managers made to look like geniuses because, what, they decided to do something about their weaknesses or appear to have?
Love Rafa but the team was well below par but our team made Shelvy look like Messi, splitting the defense with a pass to Suarez.
Imagine if we really faced Messi and Suarez with the performance today?!
Lets face it Liverpool have been pretty mediocre since the start of the year.
The manager has failed to address the fundamental flaws in Liverpool’s defence .
Liverpool’s forwards are having a difficult time at the minute but this can happen to any team
so you would expect in any normal situation for the defenders to step up against an especially poor attacking line up and see out a game.
But yet another comical defensive laps leading to a ridiculous goal by the worst centre forward in the league costs us vital points and then the manager completely absolves himself of all responsibility .
This isn’t the players fault that has got us into this situation the blame lays squarely at Klopps door. The manager has been showing his frustration at his forwards missing easy chances at the same time as ignoring the catastrophic errors made EVERY game by his hapless defenders.
The next game against Mourinoh’s United looks pretty daunting for a team that is lacking in confidence and maybe little bit of Rafa’s stoicism instead of the ridiculous ranting may take some of the pressure off , but a bit of Rafa’s organisational nous may serve them better.
I’m glad you decided to take a deep breath and have a good night sleep before coming up with fuckwit . Not sure if your directing this at me or Klopp but I want the manager and Liverpool to win trophies and play fantastic football. Insulting other supporters for having an opinion without giving any counter argument gets us nowhere. If you have an opinion about the reds Klopp and the way we’ve been playing let’s hear it .
Some points from the game;
You are right, Neil – there are problems in every area of the pitch. For me, the biggest being the imbalance in midfield.It’s not dynamic and offers little support to the back four. The personnel could be improved but they would still get exposed. Does not excuse the first goal today.
Newcastle offered nothing going forward and we gift a goal (see Burnley)
You might as well start Oxlade-Chamberlain. He can’t do any less than Gini at present (famous last words)
If you played the drinking game every time Gomez passed back in the second half these words would be a hazy blur right now. And you’d probably have permanent brain damage (not going to make obvious Moreno gag here)
The finishing. Man, the finishing. It’s systemic. They all do it. Salah has scored six but he’s had about 10-15 other GREAT chances he’s fluffed. Sturridge, Firmino, Mane, Solanke have all spurned chances recently Kane would’ve taken with his eyes closed while being orally relieved by Pochettino’s gran.
Not buying TWO centre backs in the summer has to be seen as dereliction of duty by Klopp (as much as I love him). Matip is a second choice CB. We needed a good strong third choice with Loveren in the Klavan position.
LFC fans stop blaming the ref. It’s not a conspiracy. they aren’t out to get us. it’s too big a job for one fella and they get shit wrong. end of. Leave that kind of paranoia for United fans. We are supposed to be the good guys.
This will all be remedied if we beat United. If we don’t…doesn’t bear thinking about. We will spank the Macs.
For the first time I felt Klopp looked in the mirror and didn’t like what he saw. For the first time the realisation of the enormity of this job smacked him in the face. His body language, and that of his assistants, was very telling. They are men who face their own mortality. The clock has started to tick.
I noticed this as well. Klopp’s post match interview suggested that the pressure may be getting on top of him.
Mourinho and Guardiola both went through patches of this last season, but remedied it by winning games. Klopp really needs to put a run together or the pressure will only increase.
It’s not the first time this season that our RB has been the focus of the opposition’s tactics one way or another… Good for their development I suppose.
I reckon when Lallana comes back we’ll only see one of Mane and Salah on the pitch together. I’m beginning to think it’s a case of having too many options up front that is preventing good decision-making, which is still a problem along with the bad finishing and bad defending. It’s too bad Sturridge couldn’t cement his place in the team today. I thought Solanke looked really good, and I have a feeling Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is going to be much better in the coming seasons than people have decided he’s going to be.
Everyone said it was a 6/10 window in the summer and a 6/10 window doesn’t win you the league. It’s still true; I feel we’re getting into a situation of double-jeopardy when we’re moaning now about not winning the league.
You say bad luck but I say not good enough. No conviction, control or confidence. No central midfielders who can dictate play. It was all too predictable and narrow. Spread the play. Stop having attacker’s who are 2 yards apart from each other. Allow Mane room for his pace. Stop dropping Strurridge so deep.
The manager is clueless – it is negligent that he has left the defence which is clearly inept in place for 3 transfer windows.
Talk of ‘luck’ is ridiculous – you can’t measure or train for luck. Teams that will amount to anything play and win.
Manager has to be sacked – he has recruited poorly and the players he has kept can’t do the business. Why is any Liverpool fan happy to accept a mediocre midfield and defence – Klopp the PR man is bulletproof because the media and gullible fans ‘like’ him
OK I’ll take the bait.
No Liverpool fan is happy with the midfield and defence right now. Not sure where you got this from. Some of us just prefer to not lose our minds or walk into the sea over it. Is Klopp the only one responsible for recruitment? Even when he wasn’t here, when the recruitment was also crap? It’ll be pretty shitty for FSG to sack him considering it’s them who have messed up the recruiting thing this summer.
No one likes Klopp just because he’s a “PR man”. He’s liked because he is pretty easy to like compared to humanity in general these days, and that doesn’t make him a “PR man” or bulletproof or whatever. Whatever you think, he managed to get us fourth place with this team, overachieving by all accounts, or at least by the accounts of those who understand how hard it is to succeed in this league.
We do have problems all over the pitch right now, and yes the transfer window is and will be to blame all season, but at the end of the day we had plenty of chances to win this match if the players had put the ball in the net when the net was wide open.
Spot on mate.
Well said (the last paragraph). Except the Man C game, all other six games could have been won by us had someone, anyone, put the ball in the net. I love sturridge based on his 2013-14 form, but he has used up all his credits left. No strength, no work rate, no speed, no real effort,and the finishing seems to have deserted him as well. Solenke, with his touch work rate and team work, is ahead of sturridge in my opinion. Looking forward to a 4-0 win against MU.
I’ll also take the bait. Of course you’re entitled to your point of view – it’s just a pity insufficient United fans thought along these lines in, say, 1988. Or ’89. Or ’90, 4 years after Ferguson arrived and they were still bang average.
@Martin This comparison to Ferguson is not fair to Jurgen especially since it was a different era, mindset and circumstances. There was a lot more patience, yes, a lot more perhaps of how the people then worked out things. Things like social media did not exist and overnight riches barely had a say.
Today it’s the world of Madrid, Barca, United, City and Chelsea, despite the huge debts, that run the show. This is akin to the movie business since the takeover by major corporations that continue to churn out garbage but also make money otherwise they would not do it.
Back in that era, I think Klopp would be on par to succeed. However today, even Ferguson would have a hard time if he had started his career a few years back. Look what happened to Ancelotti.
Klopp is not clueless but a romantic and stubborn individual. It is admirable and some fans take to it.
For those who prefer this approach that’s wonderful, and hope it leads to a league title and Champions League title some day, but the reality is that fans are seeing the same shit just on a different day that chips away at all this idealistic stuff and we’re wondering when does he and the team mean business.
Beating United will be great, but I fear that it will serve as a reprieve, temporarily, as the expectation will need to have a consistent display and progress.
So my hope is that Jurgen has better tricks up his sleeves than playing the OX for a few minutes at the end of each game and buying VVD in Jan.
You wonder what has to happen before Robertson gets another shout. Not that Albi was total shite, but something needs to change. Something. Needs. To change.
It’s like Groundhog Day, except it is the day when you got your hopes up and crushed within the space of minutes. You know its coming, but your hopes get up anyway. Like Charlie Brown trying to kick the ball from Lucy. Real Godardian shit.
Fantastic writing, Neil Atkinson, you make reading a pleasure again. Keep it up.
NUFC & LFC seem like opposites – one has ordinary players ‘propa organised like’ by a ‘reet grand’ manager, while the other has a team of quality players that just can’t turn into a quality team, …yet!
No quality with the final ball in the last third, looked like they were running in mud the last 40 minutes.
Let’s cut the crap the back four is shit. How Milner can’t get in that side in a full back position is just bananas. No quality from Gomez today and I don’t know why klopp doesn’t se the composure Milner would add to the side.
Matip and Lovren asleep, no communication, not sharp enough to see the gap and step up before the ball is played. At least Matip has a go Lovren just gives up. Shite. Criminal to see how thus hasn’t been addressed after selling Lucas and Sakho
Too many straight lines, too flat, too pedestrian. Masterclass from Rafa in being a defensive unit.
Not good for your wellbeing, watching these lads. Always on the cusp of killing teams. Our boot forever on their throats, only to be gently lifted away. That moment where Salah found Mane with the gorgeous outside of the boot pass, that has to be a goal. It’s got to be. The Gini off the post from the corner moment has to be a goal too. Should be the easiest thing in the world but it’s not, it’s the most difficult.
The goal is garbage and we all know it. Klopp knows it. Everyone is going to want to blame him of course, such is the nature of this game of ours, but that one is all on the players. How can you get carved up by such a simple pass? Time stood still in front of me. It was like Aguero’s first against us last month. He appears to be through on goal, but he’s offside surely? Nope.
The moment I knew we weren’t winning was Sturridge’s miss from Clark’s error. You just cannot miss those chances. I cannot remember being as angry in a football match as I was at that moment.
Fans are conditioned to start calling for the manager’s head by this point. We’re told there’s a ‘time’ by which it must have all clicked, and if it doesn’t then it’s time to change. I disagree.
Firstly, I want any success we achieve to be with Klopp, not some mercenary manager. We need to stop pretending Klopp isn’t aware of the issues at the back. The targeting of van Dijk shows that he is quite aware of what we need back there. Yes, of course it’s a controversial call to not target anybody else, but what if that somebody else stopped us getting van Dijk long term? He knows the exact specification of player he needs, hence the relentless pursuit of Keita. Klopp knows how to mould this team in his image and he’s going to do it. I am willing to wait for it as it’ll be that much sweeter when it arrives.
Absolutely spot on. (And, as ever, fantastic writing Neil. You could make a career out of this mate !!)
Winter is coming.
Everyone needs to calm down a bit. I always assumed Liverpool fans were the smartest and understood the complexities of the game more than any other fan and it’s been dispiriting to see so much evidence to the contrary.
Calling each other fuckwits cos they disagree gets no one anywhere.
There are huge problems with the team that the confidence gained from beating United and the January transfer window could go a huge way towards eradicating. So lets get behind the team.
If we lose to United though, that’s another story….
FSG in Buying Inferior Players Leads to Inferior Results shocker!
Klopp isn’t blameless (he seems to be a poor judge of player) but as long as FSG own the club we will continue to sign mediocre players. And guess what? That leads to mediocre results!
Liverpool went to the gym and completely skipped leg day. I just can’t look past the summer. It was a massive failure from the club not to rectify the defensive issues. January cannot come soon enough where the club has to make defensive signings.
This is not on Klopp but FSG they need to start acting and thinking like a top 4 club let alone a league winning side.
We have bee n mediocre for 10 years, when will fans wake up!
Do you know what this whole debate is now doing my head in. Things are not exactly right they haven’t been since we won the league. but since then we won the champions league.
Oh and may I say so many of the supporters were so happy that year until the final penalty miss weren’t they ! (if you didn’t get it, total sarcasm).
LFC has gone through the ringer, we are only just getting out of this with new owners that had to find their feet who have made mistakes and sure will make them again. And so will the current manager. But for people to call for Klopp to be sacked are you really f-ing all there. Who shall we have then instead, realistically who! Please don’t bother with pathetic replacements.
I would never expect the Anfield faithful to be blindly supportive but f*** me , I travel to anfield probably 10 times a year and the support is becoming pathetic. And it starts here!!!! Not as in here but you get my drift.
I remember going to watch Sunderland in the 13/14 season with a guard of honour and scraping a 2-1 with the amazing Suarez. Then soon as the Chelsea game finished everything was shit, never mind how we got ourselves there in the first place, but of course all down to just Saurez, really.
FFS support the team not blindly but on match day give it your all. We make a difference and at the moment we impact it negatively. We are a fantastic side who can play some electric footy. A team that is short a little on confidence but doesn’t need a bunch of know it all ( but not really), groaning and moaning at the slightest miss pass or mistake. This is a time to help our team not destroy it.
I believe klopp wants his targets and will not waste money on what he believes will not work. I reckon FSG demand that after what has been wasted in the past. This team is talented and good enough , with a good enough manager and tactics to segment our top four place. Lets not make it harder than it is.
The Manc sides and Chelsea have had open cheque books to build their teams. Man City took 4 years with that finance to get there and last year with all that backing and Man U they weren’t even close in the league with arguably the best two managers ever.
The banter and heated discussion is what makes the footy experience but for f*** sake start making the right noise at anfield and help this team reach some of its potential.
Very well written article & summed up Sunday almost to a tee I thought. It is only a game, it is only a job, but it matters, it matters to us all who spend fortunes following & supporting them. We look unbalanced at the moment, Lallana & Clyne will help I feel. Coming back on the train from Newcastle yesterday spoke to a few of their fans, they were all delighted with the draw & that to me sums our current plight up.
I have no doubt Jurgen will take us to glory given time & money, he is the best manager LFC could have, end of IMO #YNWA