DISAPPOINTMENT, frustration, but let’s not pretend we are too surprised.
Liverpool have produced that kind of passable performance on a number of occasions this season but found a way to win. Last night they didn’t. End of.
It’s not too long ago that they might have found a way to lose.
It isn’t meant to be easy. The squad is a little stretched, the nerves are a little more stretched. Pep and Poch are saying, “tell me about it”. Everyone is feeling it now.
Jürgen Klopp’s team have been breaking the records set by Liverpool legends, but the winning runs and points hauls don’t qualify them for a statue. Not yet.
The single most exciting thing about this team is that they are already ahead of schedule. Closing a 25-point gap on City and winning the title would represent an advance on pre-season expectations. Winning it with several games to spare was never on.
This Liverpool are not the finished article, and yet they are still on course to finish ahead of the rest. Whether they do or they don’t, most of them will improve over the coming seasons. The club is making and spending money. The best should be yet to come.
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This has more a feel of the mid ‘70s, than the mid ‘80s. The beginning of something. This is not suddenly a generation of super players the likes of which Liverpool fans under the age of 50 have never seen.
Messrs Gerrard, Coutinho, Suarez and Alonso would have all got into last night’s lineup. Actually, so would Alvaro Arbeloa or Steve Finnan!
Even the very best players in the current squad have their moments.
Alisson Becker is the most accomplished Liverpool ‘keeper since Ray Clemence but his footwork can get a bit fancy.
Virgil van Dijk might be the best central defender in the world but with his effortless mastery comes a kink or two of carelessness.
Andy Robertson is as popular and feted a full back as the club has ever had but he does dive in from time to time.
Mo Salah is a revelation that keeps giving but he cannot escape his many pursuers every time he gets the ball.
Every single one of them is instantly forgivable for all the wonders they have added to the strong sense of collective that is Liverpool’s main asset. Flaws are fine. It is the joint commitment and pride with which they play that covers them up and makes this team so easy for you to support.
Romantic memory tells me that there were days 40 years ago when I would turn up for a game at Anfield with my local radio broadcast kit and plug in the cables in the sure-fire knowledge that I was going to describe another Liverpool victory. There was an inevitability about it. It was almost boring at times. Almost.
The excitement of this ride is that there is no such certainty. Klopp has fine tuned the style and approach this season in order to try to introduce more reliability, but game management and control of possession are still relatively new features to the overall development of this team.
Only last night I was hearing that there was “too much side to side” and not enough “rip roaring Liverpool”. Have they not been watching? Liverpool have ripped and roared only occasionally this season. They have passed the legs off team after team that they have faced. Side to side. Patient, probing, pragmatic football.
If you have been missing those ballistic bursts of mayhem when Liverpool scored three times in no time against sides as good as City and Roma, the message has been to look at the league table. This has been a different grown-up team.
They had to summon up the spirit of Shankly to outpunch Palace the other week, but the football has been more Bob than Bill this season. Paisley’s regime could forgive anything but losing possession. Klopp’s answer to past defensive frailties has been to protect your goal by protecting the ball.
Twenty-five minutes into the Leicester match, they were doing precisely that and doing it well, doing it with a lead that could have been healthier still. Then Alisson had his second aberration, James Maddison had a clear chance and the mood changed.
Leicester were given a glimpse of last season’s Liverpool. Palace got one with that free headed goal for James Tomkins that made it 2-2. Worse still, the Liverpool fans got a glimpse of last season’s foibles too. The players felt it out on the pitch.
Yes, they could still have won if they’d got that penalty, but the security had been breached, the uneasy uncertainty had returned.
Get used to it. This is how it’s going to be. It’s what makes the prize worth winning.
I saw nothing from Liverpool last night that I haven’t seen before this season. I learnt nothing about the team or any of the players that I didn’t know already. There was nothing in that performance that they haven’t been able to handle and still be five points better than anyone else so far.
This week’s surprise was at Newcastle, not at Anfield.
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I’d pay a monthly bonus to whoever it was that persuaded Clive Tyldesley to write this column.
Agreed Martin. A superb summary of someone who has seen it all before. 5 points clear with 14 to go. I’d have bitten your hand off last August..
Nice piece. Heads falling off because a side extends its lead at the very top of the table, while their main rivals lose to a relegation candidate makes zero sense to me.
The team will take checks during a 38 game 9 month league programme…. form fluctuates, individuals experience illness or sub par physical arrives via a build up of fatigue and minor niggles, opponents are generally good (they are playing against top class players in a top league! Its not Sunday on the local paddock) and randomness/luck runs you way or against
What counts is long run performance…. P24, W19, D4, L1….. 61 points at an average of 2.541 points a game
What really counts is now the next game in the league. We win that and on we go.
14 games left, 42 points max left for City and the Reds to win…. if City take all 42 (unlikely but possible) then we need to take only 38 (only… large only I know) as we have a five point buffer
We win and they win round by round… and it actually gets harder for City as runway to overhaul the Reds declines and the amount of points we need to win drops. Matching results is ok as long as both sides are not losing or drawing every week as that opens a door slight for Spurs…
City lose a game and the equation gets much worse for them. So yes a draw to the Foxes at home is a missed chance, but given the round circumstance of a City lost its not a bad result.
Look forward, walk towards the pressure and embrace it, embrace the opportunity – there is nothing to lose and everything to win…
Great piece and invaluable perspective. I think it’s ok to feel frustration because we want this so much, after so long, but it will be counterproductive if we overdramatise it. There is a part to play by supporters, and most especially by those in the ground. Weird, edgy, tumbleweed atmospheres are not going to propel us to the holy grail. It’s time everyone got on board with that and acted accordingly.
Hey Clive, a great sense of perspective there and I love it!
Experience keeps the mind bright..
I’ve rad about Brexit making the nation stressed out.
Brexit is nothing compared to this title race! But when Van Djjik says the player sensed it out on the pitch it’s not good. Maybe put up a massive screen with a Ken Dodd show before kick off to get us in the right mood.
Brilliant reality check Clive.
Not a reality check if it is already in perspective. We already knew it was a tough match, as Leicester have already beaten City and Chelsea and are one of the better teams away from home. We again had to put together a make shift defence, with Hendo at RB and 4th choice Matip coming in to make up the right side of our defence, which has Shaq, probably playing his worst game just ahead of them… and then the conundrum that is Keita, who has still yet to turn up and penalty not awarded aside, has yet to do anything meaningful in a red shirt.
We also were not helped by the conditions. We were most definitely not helped by the officials. In Atkinson he goes out of his way not to ever award us anything. In fact there was one occasion he pulled us back for a free kick because we were in danger of scoring (midway 2nd half). Atkinson botched 3 key decisions Maguire’s forearm smash and grab on Salah in the box in the first half. That was a pen and a yellow. Neither was given. Mane’s pull down when him and Salah would have been through on just the keeper. That was a red every day of the week as the last defender and a blatant foul… and of course Keita’s not awarded penalty that was nailed on… Nailed on unless you are Liverpool and this is Martin Atkinson. We then had his Lino in front of the Main Stand, who refused to give Liverpool anything, including a clear shove on Gini before they got their FK for the goal. Same Lino also flagged Mane offside when he was at least 2 yards ONSIDE. This was the one where Mane ended up clear through on their Schmeicheal (or however you spell his name). – These 2 certainly ensured that rules were not applied in the letter of the law and as a result they did Man City and Leicester a lot of favours.
Perspective is also something Keita needed when being in possession of the ball with a few seconds to go before half time and him being under no pressure. We are leading, we do not have to force the issue. We just need to retain possession and not give it away. Likewise for Robbo, who was to eager and gave away the unnecessary FK on a guy who was going nowhere.
Like Clive I have seen us win an awful lot (I think it’s at least 10 league titles and 5 European Cups for starters). Come back to what Clive said about Bob’s teams and retaining possession. It is keeping it simple and under control when in the advantage that will do it. We gave Palace a life line, after life line the other week by constantly forcing the issue and giving it away and exposing ourselves. In fact we were the biggest danger to ourselves. Likewise this was more or less the case on Wednesday night.
Cool heads are what is required. 14 games left. City have to win them all. That being the case, then we have to win 13 of ours. We can do this, especially as we will have players returning who can do more than those who have stood in for them. What we don’t need anymore of is officials who don’t apply the correct decisions. We had one at City at the beginning of the month (an official from Manchester officiating a team from Manchester and finding in their favour with every solitary decision and then Wednesday night with Martin “I will never ever award Liverpool anything” Atkinson, who sure enough again gives us absolutely nothing. Had the officials officiated both those games to the letter of the law, then by my reckoning we would have been 13 points ahead of City and 12 points ahead of Spurs… That is where perspective lays, in getting officials who can actually officiate.