IT’S dead hard playing centre mid for Liverpool.
Been saying it for a while and today that hopefully has been made crystal clear. I say “hopefully” because there have been people refusing to accept this for an astonishing length of time. I say “hopefully” because I do hope. I genuinely think that people desperate to talk about football should acknowledge this.
There is an argument the hardest job in football could well be playing centre mid for Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. That he asks so much. That he wants the lad in the middle of his three to do about five jobs, to be almost everything, to be the three things you can be in a 4-2-3-1. It could be that that is unfair.
Liverpool spent £40m on a really good midfielder in the summer but today it was all too much for him. Fabinho looked like he wasn’t fit enough, sharp enough, smart enough. Like his touch wasn’t good enough. He looked absent while present. He looked a million miles off.
For years this column, your correspondent, has found himself criticised for being too kind about Jordan Henderson. For being too upbeat about Liverpool’s captain. The truth of the matter is that for an age Henderson has had the world asked of him and has been too harshly criticised.
And this will extend to Fabinho. He scraps and works. He never shirks and I bet he would have liked to. I would have in his shoes. But he shows and is keen. The truth is that it is dead hard playing centre mid for Liverpool.
The hope and expectation is that Fabinho learns from tonight. He watches the video. He has a think about it. He redoubles efforts around being 10 per cent fitter. He takes it on the chin. He recognises the size and scope of the challenge. Because while this manager made it easier for him for a half, that will not happen again. There should be no doubt about two things:
- Fabinho has the talent to become the starting centre mid for Liverpool.
- Being the starting centre mid for Liverpool could be the hardest job in football.
And so the remainder which isn’t impacted like this lead weight on a rubber sheet. The Reds were the better side for much of the first half. They were the side most likely but this Arsenal is worth watching and liking. They are in the business of being in business. They are a migration of a football team, an avian swoop and shift. They are the boys and are enjoying being the boys.
There is a chance that no team in the country could be more fun to support this season than them. They are effervescent and teeming with brio. They want a bit of it. Whatever it is. Their manager has looked at his squad and backed them not to find glory but to be glorious. Fair play to them.
But The Reds should still have beaten them. Virgil van Dijk should have had a hat trick. Andy Robertson could have had three assists. Sadio Mane spent his evening just being in vain. Everything nearly there, nothing quite right. Liverpool, even while poor, even while not functioning or while accommodating in central midfield, were the better side at all the football that matters.
We can have 10,000 words on the James Milner finish for the opener. Its values were Yorkshire and Protestant, the ball fell to the most ideal man to make sure what had to happen did without a flourish. He roared at the crowd because he knows what it means. He is a man you would follow to the very jaws of Hell or beyond. He is the best and the finest of us yeoman. An artisan better than most artists. He should never be damned with faint praise, he should be overwhelmed with adoration. He is the business. The footballer you would call upon.
It was 90 minutes of Mo Salah almost getting in. God I love him. The less he succeeds the more he becomes ours. He is a man of so much brain. Talk about his speed or his touch by all means. But he outthinks you three times before he even has the ball under his spell. He will have the finest season.
A point isn’t a shame. Klopp’s Reds remain unbeaten having faced four of their six closest rivals by this stage — and three of them away from Anfield. A point only feels it because of Manchester City’s class. The bigger issue is perhaps what we ask of our boys time and again, but you know what lads? We’re all in this together, for better or worse. They are our lads. They always were. They always will be. Let’s encourage them and understand the scale of the challenge in both micro and macro senses.
Eleven down, 27 to go. They are our Reds and they have very hard jobs.
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Credit where credit is due. Arsenal are a very good side. But we are a better team. However, the players didnt show up and thus didnt prove it. Which is utterly disappointing.
Dont want to sound too harsh but I expect from a 40 millioon midfielder who’s had a full pre-season to help us play better and stronger at this point in the season. But the lad’s performance tonight was absolutely disgraceful. Cant believe how slow the fella is. But Klopp must have seen something in him. Maybe he is more suited in games with 80% posession. But tonight showed, he is nowhere near ready to even romotely do what Hendo does for a over 2 years now.
Fabinho destroyed most of our play tonight. A big factor that cost us the 3 pts and now we are already in the chase to keep up with City. In bloody November.
At this stage. Manchester City are below us in the league so “already in a chase” literally makes no sense
I long for the days where we all just enjoy the match and not.have crazy expectations. Nobody (including Titus Red) knows what’s going to happen with any certainty.
We sit top of the league having played 4 of our toughest games, 3 away from home. We might not be top later today but can we genuinely ask for much more?
It would be nice for the officials to do their job properly though.
Yes, but when the rest of us are on our haunches with our faces in our shirts to hide our tears, Titus will have his “I told you so when we drew at Arsenal” trophy to cling to for solace. Because, really, what is life but the circumspect evasion of hopes in order to soften the potential blows of disappointment should said hopes not come to fruition.
Nothing ventured, nothing lost, as the old saying goes. Which is why I always try to support the club with the highest wage bill and exclusively play footie against small children.
The problem with that logic is that City genuinely look capable of dropping no more than 4 more points all season if necessary. It’s what I tried and failed to express on the Facebook page the other day. Sure, every game is must-win to have any chance against these, but that (pre-Arsenal) would have extrapolated to a 110-point season. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re being treated to the free-flowing football we’ve grown used to and which simply makes us look forward to the next match, rather than at what City are up to.
A wise man (I think it was Arnold Schwarzenegger) once said, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
In bloody November we are averaging 2.5 points per game having had the hardest start in terms of fixtures played for about 20 years (copyright Paul Tompkins). We’re unbeaten, only conceded 4 goals and whatever City do today we’re within touching distance of a team that amassed 100 points last season. They could easily do the same again and there’s almost nothing we can do about it.
No one’s overly happy with our performance last night, but we still took a point away from home from a top team and we were a wrongly disallowed goal away from all 3.
Get a grip.
I get how you were using it but after the revelations this week let’s put a moratorium on using the word “class” in the same sentence as Manchester City. 1 down 6 to go!
Fabinho could have done with a midfielder or two who could actually beat a man and drive forward. Wjnaldum and Milner are not the guys he needs around him to bring out the best of his talents.
Today they were exactly the midfielders he needed around him to compensate for his “talents”.
I couldn’t agree more.
Fabinho was caught short today, and bailed out by Millie and Gini (who was great today, again) but he’ll improve.
He’ll learn and get better and give more, or else he’ll find himself squeezed out by Hendo and Keita and Gini and he won’t want that. He’ll want to stay in and be part of this team, this band of brothers, as they battle their way to… who knows where. And it’ll be exciting and he won’t want to miss it.
I know I don’t.
One thing that has bothered me a little this season, and not overreacting, but we seem to have trouble imposing ourselves at times. With time, thought Shaq might have come on a bit earlier. Marriner was not great, and thought the call was off on Mane’s opener, and that he gave their boys a little more leeway than ours. I’m not losing any sleep over it yet. A point isn’t the worst result, Arsenal just have so many cracks this year, I really want to see us exploit them.
I felt like this was what was perhaps worrying Neil in this column last week. We’ve not been quite at it all season, and unfortunately any point this year is going to look like a bad point in the context of Man City’s relentless form. It seems harsh to judge us against their incredible form, but it’s a title race we’re in…
Felt that a point was ok in the context of the game, maybe even good. In the context of potentially winning the league, an away point to top six opposition is absolutely something you can be content with in seasons gone by. In this season, with this Man City knocking about, it feels like a shitty point, in part because City have already banked the 3 points at the same venue
I see what you’re saying but City played them at a ‘good’ time. Arsenal were absolutely shite that day, they were a completely different side to the one we faced last night.
It’s a good point, just feels shite because we led and probably had the better chances of the match.
Just a thought though – I’d say Spurs away aside, our midfield has generally been second best against the other sides around us. In games like this, midfield battles usually determine the outcome. I think we’ve done well to do as well as we’ve done considering, I feel, that we’ve lost the midfield grip in most of the big games.
Chelsea and City played and beat the Gunners at the start of the season. Emery had little or no influence at that stage. They are Not shite. A point is no disgrace. But I’m still fuming. By Monday I’ll probably be fine.
Fab was way off the pace and possibly the concept of a Klopp midfield tonight.
He killed our shape and forced Milly and Gini to be largely anonymous as a result.
Is that it?
Will he improve?
JK bought him.
Of course he is good enough.
That is all.
Watching the equaliser back it is an exceptional finish.
No consolation to us.
We have looked half cooked all season ….. and yet – unbeaten, 5 goals conceded after 11 games and definitely not adrift, regardless of Chelsea and City results.
It is s marathon. Not a 10k.
JK knows what it takes.
I expect the rhythm of a match every 3 days over the winter to improve us ; as it did last year.
It will be sound.
Well written as always Neil. Disagree we were the better side in the first half – thought we were generally outplayed until we scored, despite having good chances of our own. It was a weird game – both teams scored at points in the game where they looked a bit on the slide to me.
That bit about James Milner though… Superb.
Don’t disagree with a lot of that and nicely written as always. However, why does Fabinho get it in the neck while Gini once again gets a pass? Gini does not pass forwards. Gini did not break up play. He didn’t provide a shield for our back 4 and yet poor old Fabinho is getting pelters from you and the ratings bloke. Fabinho made mistakes, but he also tried to move us up the pitch and put the front 3 into space – something Gini failed to do yet again. Gini is fine. He’s an ok player. He’s not as good as Milner or Hendo and I just don’t see the ability to pass forward being there – unlike Fabinho whose ‘vertical’ passing looks promising.
After absorbing the general aftermath of the game I feel the real ills of the team, a team that’s still top of the league mind, is the 180 degree manner of our overall game compared to last season. From the buccaneering thrill a minute we’ve almost had to become a 90’s Arsenal 1-0 defensively dominant team but not as a result of a thorough reassessment of tactics but more a result of the front 3’s regression.
Top of the league and still not happy is a weird position but we have a yardstick that we shouldn’t ignore and it’s not even Man City, who we may have to accept are just better, the yardstick should be ourselves.
Everyone of our front 3 look like they’re having the ‘second season’ syndrome. Same players, same attributes but alarmingly different performance levels. They seem incapable reliably passing to each other within the same attack and the more basic the final pass the more incapable they become. Against the bottom half when opportunities are plentiful is one thing but against the top 6 it will hurt us. Shaquiri’s performances have stood out in this light due to his precision and clinical execution and the longer we persist without rewarding these attributes wherever they lay, the more we’re going to feel dissatisfied. As bad as Fabinho may have been I believe we’re overlooking a lot more.
Magically put ! But oh my, Arsenal looked exciting in the second half, great off the ball movement – but the reds had several really good chances to have killed off this game.
Disallowed goal that should stand. Robbed of 3 points whatever else happened. After milners goal we should have scored again with the pressure that was applied. So a very disappointing result in my eyes. Think our defence was excellent but Trent not so much especially for their goal where hes ambling back and should be putting some pressure on Thecazette.
It’s been said. Our midfield was hindered by Fabinho. Our front 3 again were still below what they are capable of anf TAA just had one those days. Yet despite that we hit the frame their goal twice, had a good goal disallowed and VvD should have been going home with the match ball. Hard not to feel disappointed after again suffering harshly to officials who gave Arsenal pretty much every decision and us shit all.
We should have had 3pts. We can play much better than we did. And as for a hard job to play centre midfield for us, sorry but that doesn’t answer why Fabinho couldn’t pick out a pass and was fairly shit at everything all game. Harsh yellow by the way.
Long way to go but that was 2pts very much lost and if you like, robbed off us. Seemed to recall a wrongly chalked off goal against Stoke costing us in the long term of a League campaign. This could prove the same.