WE should only be looking on the bright side.
Four wins in five Christmas period games, 15 goals for, just five against. Mo Salah scoring, having fun, Virgil van Dijk signing for £75million. Then very suddenly it all gets a bit murky. From the togetherness in victory and ecstasy at Burnley on New Year’s Day, to the uncertainty and boiling up of old tensions as news broke that Phil Coutinho was intent on jumping ship again.
Phil’s lack of loyalty is infectious. The negativity that surrounds his future and connection to Liverpool FC is a toxicity that can go viral if unchecked. When all buy in, we are stronger. Jürgen Klopp’s clarion call from his inauguration as manager was for one-club mentality. It seemed an obvious request, but it was only when hearing his invoking of the need for unity so unreservedly that we were able to take a step back and be objective on ourselves. The wounded Kop kids of the dysfunctional Tom Hicks and George Gillett era had been so damaged by experience that they’d forgotten how to yield, to show faith.
Where once we characterised our support by its loyalty, it’s adoration, commitment, post Hicks and Gillet we saw vigilance, cynicism and mistrust as our watchwords. The cracks are papered over in victory, but in adversity, old wounds gape as if fresh.
Already the wires across the Liverpool spectrum are hot with dissent. Coutinho is the fissure, but the cut is deeper than the surface injury. The club is showing a lack of ambition. Klopp its cap-doffing accomplice. Liverpool will never compete. Big signings are just sops to placate the villagers ahead of sales.
Where the van Dijk signing united us, the Coutinho saga divides us. The omnipresent, hapless elephants in the room are the ownership. Supporters believe in their club but also can’t settle on faith only in its abstract form. They need to trust in an earthly father. The modern Red never knew his or hers. The modern fan is asked to take to owners like home-wrecked kids are to step parents. They rationally understand the benefits of working towards a new allegiance but emotionally can rarely get past resentment. They didn’t choose this guardian.
In times of stress, as Coutinho is inducing, all of these kinds of suppressed frustrations and anger return to the fore. Klopp’s desire for complete togetherness seem a vain and distant utopia.
That all this is occurring in a derby week makes it hurt just a little bit more. We’re having to work out serious family issues not just in public but right under the noses of the neighbours. Not for the first time, the timing of a derby doesn’t feel quite right.
Klopp will feel he owes Everton one after the travesty of The Blues smash-and-grab equaliser in the early December encounter. The Liverpool manager will also welcome the distraction of the real thing in the midst of a transfer window that, although still in its infancy, feels like it could become all consuming.
Coutinho won’t feature in this derby. He may never feature in a Merseyside derby again. Salah and Sadio Mane will arrive back on Merseyside just hours from kick off having been given permission to attend the African Footballer of the Year awards in Ghana. Salah is reportedly still nursing a tight hamstring and will likely be rested. Sadio should start though. He has been something of a shadow of himself of late but may relish being given top billing in Salah’s absence.
Liverpool’s front four may be Coutinho and Salah light on Friday evening but a combination of Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane and Roberto Firmino has more than enough potency to see The Reds progress to the FA Cup’s fourth round.
For once though all Anfield eyes will not be on the star quality at the top end of the pitch. There’s a chance that £75m defender van Dijk will make his first bow in Liverpool red and it’s a prospect to savour.
There will be pressure on van Dijk to impress and suppress Everton should he make his debut, but he has the character to rise to the occasion. It is rare to be truly excited about a defensive debut but Virgil is no ordinary defender. In his pomp at Southampton he was their everything — best defender, leader, playmaker.
Van Dijk’s first central defensive partner’s identity will be of interest. Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren will feel they have the strongest claims but Joel Matip is Klopp’s man and will be quietly confident that he’ll get first dibs.
It’s something of a relief to have a break from the intensity of the league programme and the insanity of the transfer window. Here’s to a looser-limbed Liverpool taking frustrations out on Everton and restoring red hegemony over Merseyside.
Predicted 11: Karius; Gomez, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Can, Milner, Lallana; Chamberlain, Firmino, Mane.
Kick off: 7.55pm live on BBC One
Referee: Bobby Madley
Odds: Liverpool 23-50, Draw 4-1, Everton 8-1
SUBSCRIBE to TAW Player for extensive buildup to the Merseyside derby, and reaction in the immediate aftermath, as well as discussion around, and reaction to, any potential January incomings and outgoings.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Didn’t Klopp say Danny Ward would play in the FA Cup games? We owe them one though!!
Listened to last nights Coutinho Gutter show with an open mind and got on board with the ‘club tells player whats what’ plan.
He’s given 5+ years of his 15 year career to us. The blaugrano don’t need him as much as we do now. Or even straws such as ‘ what a miss for this year’s CL show’. Let him go. To a land of no away support. We’ll be a destination for the best Bundesliga young prospects instead.
Lfc exist to subsidise the Red sox. If no replacements are bought,Lfc will be a Europa league side,at best.
you ok mate? long day?
One man that must be thanking his lucky stars for Coutinho is Can – less talent, less dedication, less focus but the same level of indifference to Liverpool Football Club. Yet because everyone’s looking at Phil, his running down his contract to nothing has gone largely unremarked. If disloyalty is infectious then both Coutinho and Can must be removed sooner rather than later.
I disagree with that.
The two situations are entirely different. Can is seeing out the contract he agreed with Liverpool – he hasn’t created a distraction, suffered a mystery injury or handed in a transfer request a few months into a new 5 year deal. If he chooses not to sign another contract with Liverpool that isn’t disloyalty – he’s a free agent exercising his right to choose where he goes next.
True. He gives everything and has not agitated for a move. He is an employee, has served his employers well and is moving on at the end of his contract. No animosity at all.
This is what I mean – we kicked Michael Owen from pillar to post for running his contract down (even before his United move) which led to Madrid picking him up for peanuts. We were even harder on McManaman who left on a free but thanks to Coutinho’s very public attempts at departure, Can has caught none of the flack for doing exactly the same thing. Granted, Can’s not as important to the club as any of those three but if Coutinho had said that he was happily staying, I think Emre would be getting it right in the neck about now.
lads, what the fuck has this got to do with tomorrow nights game?
Cant we park Coutinho for one minute to look at the mater in hand?
Thanks for review Rob.
The Reds need to be focused here with all this transfer nonsense going on.
Don’t know if Jurgen has final say on the transfer go/no go, but it is really down to him then he needs to get the team and Coutinho focused, even if it means benching Coutinho.
Everton and that Fat Bastard are certainly sensing a chance to upset us further.
So let’s leave this Coutinho business alone for the next match and get behind the team.
Up the Reds!!!
Robbo is spot-on with the video referee nonsense. Video technology has significantly impacted American sports, particularly the NFL, with constant stoppages of play to “review” referee decisions. This not only disrupts the flow of the game, but guess what: there’s never been more debate about calls being right or wrong. It seems video evidence only distorts the rules further rather than helping to clarify. Huge mistake if they implement this full-stop!
Not sure where in the article it mentions video refs, but seeing as you raised it, video replays, Hawkeye and the rest are a godsend in rugby, tennis and cricket. Only football has held out in some misguided view about the sanctity of the decision of the man in the middle. But football is played at break-neck speed these days and unfortunately your average footballer is also a master of the dark arts of cheating, diving and feigning contact or injury. Refs don’t mean to get decisions wrong – they are doing their best – but the odds are stacked against them now and they just need some bloody help. So roll on video replays.
Maybe you’re worried about the time it will take to make a decision? What about all the time spent time-wasting by teams, or by the goalkeeper when delaying a goal kick or when a late sub takes a minute to walk off the field? Aren’t those a worse waste of time than spending a minute to figure out if a key decision that could change the shape of a game is right or wrong?
And that’s another thing that could be easily eradicated, time-wasting I mean. Just stop the clock each time there is a substitution or an injury – take the control of the clock away from the ref who has got enough to deal with as with as it is.
If we win tonight – and we should – then everything will seem a lot rosier in the morning. I’ve oscillated wildly on the Phil issue all week – from ‘stick him in the reserves’ resentment to a more sanguine ‘we’re all passing through’ vibe. In an ideal world he’d stay put, and I really, REALLY detest Barca’s sense of grubby-handed entitlement. But there’s no doubt Klopp is in charge and I don’t think for one second that he would feel forced by the owners to sell or retain a player if it went against his better judgement. Proper reporters have stressed that any decision is essentially Klopp’s decision. If he goes now – and it would be better in the summer – then fork out for some A-grade replacements and let’s drive on. Let’s hope Phil has a serious case of the Mickey Owen’s when he’s looking on as we bag the CL at the start of the summer. But let’s start with the Cup tonight…