“WE keep repeating ourselves, the big tests are yet to come for Liverpool. Clearly they keep beating these so-called lesser teams, the same in the Premier League, but they’ve beaten nobody yet.”
The words of failed manager, turned failing coach, turned punditry bellend Roy Keane there.
That follows up his old drunk in the corner of the pub-like ramblings in the aftermath of Liverpool’s 3-0 home win over Maribor, in which he said: “It’s hard to get excited about them, they’re going nowhere fast. Come the end of the season when the prizes are being given out, Liverpool will be nowhere near them. If Liverpool were playing out in my back garden I wouldn’t watch them.”
His latest barbed comments came after The Reds’ second 7-0 win of the Champions League group stage, in which they scored an English club record of 23 goals, as they secured top spot to advance to the knockout stage for the first time in nine years.
Keane may have a point about Jürgen Klopp’s side’s form against the top six this season. In five games they have won just one versus Arsenal, drawn two against Manchester United and Chelsea, and lost two to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. The fact that Liverpool were a few sliding doors moments away from getting improved results in those games is forgotten with hindsight, so we’ll leave that for another time.
But Roy’s key point was that Liverpool wouldn’t get the time and space to unleash their brand of attacking football against the so-called big teams.
The same — if not much-improved — Liverpool side that were unbeaten in games against the top six last season. With five wins and five draws. With a goal difference of seven; scoring 16 and conceding nine.
A Liverpool side that two years ago reached a European final with a group of players signed by another manager, and were a second-half collapse away from lifting silverware, just seven months after Klopp had arrived at the club. And were a penalty shootout away from lifting the League Cup at Wembley three months before that.
But nah, this new and improved Liverpool side who are tearing sides new arseholes on a fairly regular basis are nowhere near silverware and can’t play against the big teams. Turn it in Roy, and look at the facts. The goal records of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane say it all.
Keane’s latest criticism also does a disservice to the sides he would class as “lesser”. Man United, for example, only scored more than three goals on one occasion in a group of a relatively similar level. They also lost to Huddersfield Town not so long ago. The much-hyped Man City will tell you that no side in the Premier League will just lie down or give you the space to get in behind them. Every game is a battle, so how can a 7-0 win be passed off so easily?
It seems that Keane is hell bent on flipping from one extreme to the next in his attempts to play up to his grumpy persona on telly and create headlines. It wasn’t long ago that he was criticising his old club Man United for every misplaced pass they made, though lately he seems to have changed his mind — suggesting they could still challenge for the Champions League crown after their loss to FC Basel.
Instead he’s turned his attentions to their closest rivals, and Liverpool seem to be the ones taking the majority of the criticism. It’s ironic that Keane is so full of praise for a team and a manager that have parked the bus against Liverpool on several occasions in the last few seasons. A side so frightened to open themselves up against such a potent attacking force that they were happy to show zero attacking ambition of their own in order to secure a point.
Some will say that’s the mark of a good team, the ability to grind out results, and that may be the case. But Jose Mourinho’s record against the top six as manager of Man United speaks for itself. Since he took the reins at Old Trafford, his side have won four, drawn five and lost five. In that time, The Reds have six wins, seven draws and two losses. I know which of those records I’d rather have.
Mourinho’s side have shown they can flat-track bully teams in the Premier League but if they aren’t getting the points against bigger sides they’ll never catch Man City and their record will hardly have Europe’s elite crying it in at the prospect of being drawn against them.
That’s not to say Liverpool will either, but Klopp’s side have definitely improved against so-called lesser sides, which was the main criticism of them last season, and they will always be full of confidence going to any of the top six sides given their record since the German took over.
The loss against Spurs obviously taught this Liverpool side and the coaching staff a few hard lessons and there has been a greater defensive surety since then, particularly at Anfield. That, coupled with a ridiculously ruthless attacking quartet, should have sides all over Europe and in the Premier League worried about the prospect of coming up against this red steamroller.
It would seem that Keane had long since closed his curtains on The Reds given how wide of the mark his comments were.
Anything can happen this season still, positive or negative, but this Liverpool side have improved markedly and made everybody sit up and take notice.
It’s about time that sour-faced, headline-chasing biff got his head out his own arse and acknowledged that.
“It’s that Liverpool are attacking you from all angles and they absolutely overwhelmed Spartak Moscow. “
“Europe should be quaking.”
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 7 December 2017