LIVERPOOL were downright irresistible.
I’m not interested in messing about; I’m interested in the facts. The facts are that there is a gulf between these two sides.
I was in The Kop for the second. Shall we have a chat about it? It looked, from where I was, like every pass was the second best option. That can’t be true. The ball ends up in the back of the net. But every decision looks, if not wrong, then not dead right.
What this does is completely throw the opposition. Not one player ever gets what they expect. Not one player is ever set. Every Spartak Moscow footballer is wrong footed and there is Phil Coutinho to do that most decent of things, the ‘keeper sprawling and confused, the ball nestling.
I’ve been driving at it on shows and I’m not going to stop. What this Liverpool side does, more than any Liverpool side I can think of, is bamboozle the opposition. They make the opposition have to make more decisions than any side can cope with. They confuse and dazzle until they break and then they pounce. This is because of their quality but not just due to their quality.
When idiots discuss the Brendan Rodgers 2013-14 side and its attacking prowess, something that is said is “well, it was just down to Luis Suarez”. This isn’t true. But what it was down to was unbelievable quality from attacking individuals who were being coached magnificently. All over the pitch, players were being liberated and improved and empowered to play their very best attacking football. Steven Gerrard’s ball to Daniel Sturridge at Fulham a marvellous case in point. Rodgers took very good or great footballers and made them able to play significantly better.
What’s happening currently has similarities — nothing in football is unique — but it has core differences. Of course the aim is to improve footballers but Liverpool attack with a collective desire to dizzy their opponents, to leave them unbalanced and unsure. To provoke so much doubt they must want to sit down on the pitch. It’s overwhelming in every sense. It’s quicker, sharper and brighter than the sun. It’s almost impossible to do and when done well it is impossible to play against.
We won’t see a lot of it sustained through matches because of how hard it is, but it is noticeable. We have seen it in Liverpool’s two home games when they needed a result to progress so far in this competition. Against Hoffenheim and tonight.
The reality of the situation is that this is a competition Liverpool can win. Will win? No. Should win? Not that either. But can win. Our attacking front four compares, either equitably or favourably, with anyone else in the competition. And if you can devastate then you can do anything.
Coutinho goes home with the match ball and what a pair of performances he has now put back to back. We can wonder about the quality of the opposition but we don’t waste time on that for outstanding individuals from Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona or Manchester City. Instead we wonder and thrill as they make light of the gap between the mundane and the magical even at the highest level of the sport. Liverpool play against the best 0.0001 per cent of footballers on the planet and so many of their players make those lads look ordinary.
Mo Salah dancing. Sadio Mane finishing. Roberto Firmino doing the best bits on the planet. The best.
We should thrill at this. Only one team wins the league. Only one team wins the European Cup. Only one team gets the silverware but if we don’t thrill at the brilliance then what’s the point? On nights like tonight we get to come and adore them. On nights like tonight they’re the kings of Europe.
As it is we go into the New Year, into February, and find out if they can be formally crowned. We get to have that to look forward to. A treat to be put in a box under the bed and pulled out after Valentine’s Day. No one will want us in that draw. No one will fancy that.
Everton next. They’ll frustrate and perhaps we won’t be as magisterial. It’s the way the thing goes. But we’ll still be this football team and still be capable of this.
For me the abiding memory of the evening could well be after the sixth at The Kop end. All of them together, all 10 outfield players, celebrating together. Come and adore them. They rightly adore each other.
“You go through moments where you’re untouchable…”
“The level this front four are playing at.” 🔥
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) December 7, 2017