SO, we’re still top. And it seems they still don’t like it.
In the buildup to yesterday’s media-driven hyperbole of a “title-deciding” game at the Etihad Stadium, which it never at any point was, sections of passionately timorous social media tribes were collectively gathering in faux unification.
The message was that the whole of the country was behind Manchester City to beat Liverpool. The rationale peddled out was that the Liverpool narrative, should they end 29 years of league title destitution, would be too unbearable to comprehend.
Crests from several teams were stood hand in hand with their Manchester brethren. The born and not manufactured Everton and never ignored Manchester United were predictably present alongside the likes of Arsenal and Leicester City.
Although in no way representative of the clubs as a whole, the message was clear. And it seems City had revised the memo verbatim come the start of last night’s encounter.
For a section of a supporter base who mocked the concept of crowd and player unity effectively influencing a fixture, with sniggers of “Atmosphere FC” in last year’s Champions League quarter final, City fans finally found their voice and their players responded.
City’s feral aggression on and off the pitch last night can be read two ways. The first being it was the response of champions, not relieving their crown without a fight and standing up to their pretenders vehemently with a response that reinforces a message of them not going anywhere.
The second is that City has become somewhat mentally perturbed and in some ways mentally inferior to Liverpool. The Reds annoy City players as much as fans. The captain wants to leave one on Mohamed Salah, and then seemingly call him a “pussy” twice afterwards, as much as the fans do.
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City players and fans were wound up to the point of frenzy last night. This affected the game, with Bernardo Silva’s running stats and Fernandinho’s breaking up of play lauded as a catalyst of Pep Guardiola’s team’s frantic style throughout.
On reflection of the game, Liverpool can maybe count themselves unlucky not to have drawn. More pressing is the circumstances which led to Jürgen Klopp’s team not taking anything from the encounter.
It is not unreasonable to have expected more at times from Liverpool. At stages the urgency needed to be intensified, the ball could’ve been kept better, and as ever the goals conceded could’ve been avoided.
Despite this, the air of desperation and release come the final whistle is a significant indicator of where both teams are. City were pinned back, shifted left and right in a manner they are usually renowned for.
They needed two goalmouth scrambles and a one centimetre margin when clearing off the line to merely cling on. They had no hesitation in indulging in time wasting after Leroy Sane’s winner was scored.
City acted like a team who had the champions elect in town, not the other way around. On the pitch they did not exert the swagger of a team who were determined to show their class as the best team about. They did not blitz Liverpool with attacking flair and fluid football. This was not a reassertion of where everybody is in the food chain.
Instead they were turgid and living for moments, which in fairness they took, while being happy to cling on for dear life against a side nowhere near at their best on the night.
Off the pitch, the home fans showered their opponents with a version of a chant they took from them which is about them — before walking off the pitch singing along to the music of a band from the city of the same opponents, who are apparently so unbearable it is incomprehensive.
The wider context now is that Liverpool are carrying the notion that they are serious title contenders wherever they go. December’s run of eight wins, no draws and no defeats, which threw up results such as a 4-0 victory at Bournemouth and a 5-1 win at home to Arsenal, barely an eyebrow was raised across the league. It certainly never led to any serious inquests from their opponents.
Tottenham and Man City know that they remain under pressure. The reason being that they both know they have to be pretty much perfect for the rest of the season, even that is no guarantee based on Liverpool’s form in the first half of the campaign.
From our own viewpoint, there is a collective responsibility to not lose what got us to this point. What Klopp has built over three years at Liverpool remains the thing they all want, they all aspire to and last night is further evidence of that.
The rest of the country did not want City to win last night. City, Everton and a large portion of Man United fans wanted City to win last night. The rest were resentful and defeated individuals who don’t like the idea of someone else enjoying themselves, because fundamentally they want what we have.
Games of football are lost. Although a basic concept fundamental to the game, it seems prevalent to remind ourselves of that in this season more than most.
The improvement of Liverpool this season has left us much more privileged, yet no less hungry, for a crowning achievement this group of coaches, players and fans deserve.
The only way to achieve that is to now look forward with anticipation and excitement, safe in the knowledge that we are still top, and it seems they still don’t like it.
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Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Had to have a chuckle last night, getting spat at in the away end and told that all Scousers are scum, only for them to belt out Hey Jude 5 minutes later.
Bless them, they’re really really trying to make this a thing with us aren’t they? They seem like they need some sort of validation from somewhere, somehow.
Great article again Dan
UP THE TOP OF THE LEAGUE REDS!!!
To bastardise a comment from Ben Johnson on a Pink some time back against Everton…
“look at all of them, why are they so happy?”
“they’re not really happy but pretending to be happy is all they have left…”
Anybody watch Sky’s coverage of the game last night? The difference between the teams was 1cm but listening to the interviews and analysis from the pundits we were priviliged to be on the same pitch as the best team in the world. Wasn’t angry about the match but listening to the sh*te talked after wound me up big time. According to all the experts we’re f**ked now and its City’s title. You couldn’t send Kompany off as it would ruin the game. Momentum now all with City. Total and utter b*llix. Jurgen likes him team being angry, he should play all the post game stuff to the team.
Good article. Last night should hurt and piss us off to the point of driving us on. We didn’t give a good account of ourselves as we all know we can play so much better. That hurt should spurs us on to doing so.
Extremely well written. It’s sometimes difficult to remain positive in defeat.
And whilst I agree with your sentiment I cannot help feeling last night was a huge chance to lay down a marker. Yes, yes I know our record the last 20 games..still top and all that..
Not sure why we are taking consolation in how much they wanted it, how they reacted afterwards, how they time-wasted, etc.. Is the fact that they respect us so much and treat us this way supposed to be a “win” in itself. Surely, being top of the league, this is not a surprise. I could care less how much our rivals respect us. Our boys should have wanted it more, it was a huge chance to seize the day. The TAW narrative seems to have focused on City and how they reacted to us. The focus should be on ourselves and how we failed or succeeded. Not on how we are great because look how we made City react.
Spot on Dan. Honestly, you’d think Citeh had gone 4 points in front with that win, based on the media/social media reaction! Everyone is still playing catch up. They all need others to do them favours. Two pretty even teams. One had a little more luck than the other. Main thing is…..WE’RE FOUR POINTS CLEAR.
Reds are coming up the hill, boys…..!
A truly superb analysis! Reasoned conviction which suggests an excellent process unfolding. I’ll have to keep reading this any time I feel my head starting to go!
“City acted like a team who had the champions elect in town, not the other way around. ”
I get your point Dan, but if the next 5 teams we play against act this way, it will be a repeat of the past two times we challenged and came 2nd.
Otherwise a good read. Thanks.