Neil Atkinson’s post-match review after Liverpool’s 4-1 loss to Manchester City in the Premier League…
THE league went Wednesday but today the gifts killed us.
The league went Wednesday. We wrote about that on Wednesday and we were right to do so and today we get to see in part why. The lack of seriousness, of deliberation, of certainty at key moments is what has done for this Liverpool side. That and the sheer scale of the injuries.
The injuries remain the defining force of the season. They have made this campaign what it is. There has been no respite from them. Every game has players returning or departing because of injury. It’s fine not to have consistency of selection out of choice, but there has been no choice. Liverpool have been firefighting for months.
Tonight and for the last six weeks the fires have been burning.
The league went Wednesday but tonight, if there was any doubt remaining, it was clear who it was going to. Indeed, it could only be clearer had Alisson Becker walked on with the trophies, untied the red and white ribbons and replaced it with some sky blue ones. It would have been a more reasonable thing for him to do second half than what he actually did.
There will come a point – and for some of you it will take years, for some months, were I in a boozer minutes, possibly hours at the outside – where we would be able to laugh at Becker’s second half. Laughing at it is all that is left to do, all that makes sense.
Try and laugh sooner rather than later. It’s better than the alternative. The reason why is because he is the best and he will never be more shite. He is the best. He has been part of winning the two massive trophies we have won. In 2018 against Napoli he keeps us in a competition we go on to win. He is key to the 26 wins from 27. There isn’t a better one. He is the best one. We cannot find better and we shouldn’t even kid ourselves with searching.
He was just shite in those moments. Emphatically, deeply shite.
Manchester City play brilliantly this afternoon. Their pressure is incredible and their strength at both ends of the park determines the shape of the game. Manchester City deserve credit in amongst the clear offering of gifts. They were oddly poor at 0-1, far poorer than I would have anticipated. But across the 90 minutes there were some excellent performances which told the story of why they are where they are right now.
Both full backs were excellent and had completely different jobs. Joao Cancelo almost has a free role but Oleksandr Zinchenko has a very, very responsible job. Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan are complementing one another perfectly. And Raheem Sterling was the game’s defining attacking force. He is rightly captaining that outfit in lieu of Fernandinho and Big Kev De Bruyne. He is at the centre of everything they do which is good.
However, the first half sees City’s pressure contained by a Liverpool side that succeeds at times in slowing them at key moments. Question is whether either of these sets of players can change it up, bring some speed in this dark afternoon.
For a few minutes you think it may be Liverpool that breaks through. We are great in the moments before the half time whistle, the passing becomes zip, zip, zip again. And then City come back out and score on the 49th minute. Gundogan – whose first half penalty gets spooned into the stand – gets to retake his shot albeit from open play, not the penalty spot.
Let us recount some good things amongst the bleak desperation. Trent Alexander-Arnold was looking better, more confident, less lost than in recent games. There were some very bright spots amongst it all, his link-up play with Salah that gives flashes of magic. Jones and Gini do a great job in midfield, and despite the mistakes at the back, they don’t deserve this scoreline.
But still. The score is the score. It cannot be denied. No one should think that our manager is absolutely faultless or flawless. He has had ups and downs in his career. This is the first real time for Klopp at Liverpool whereby the plan has not really been executed.
Klopp will need a new plan. One that reflects the reality of this god-awful season, and finds whatever marginal advantage we can get out of the next run of games. COVID-19 has made this game we love a different thing and the injuries has added to the idea that we are a different thing, a thing scrapping for life, for a pulse.
I am scrapping for life. For a pulse. I am a different thing.
The fellow feeling we would normally have in moments like this is absent. It is numbing. It is cold. We need to find a way to laugh. We need that moment of laughing. We need a plan suitable for the climate, and one that recognises that progress is never banked, it must continually be fought for, always battled for, never giving in.
Perhaps our ambition has not gone away. Perhaps it is hibernating. Our energy is being conserved for something. But what? When will the ice melt away? We don’t know. We just want them to fight their way out of this, we just want to see the fight again and not see them give it away. All I wanted today was fight and you got to see it but you can’t both scrap and give gifts like that.
Liverpool’s Women played in the snow today in a game you couldn’t fucking watch, a game that kicked off at 2pm and you couldn’t fucking see it anywhere. Then the men’s team play and you can’t be there, you are snowed in again, a million miles away from making Anfield a bugger.
And whilst our women’s team and our men’s team had opposite results last season – one relegated, one league title – right now for both, the football is hard going as much as the weather is cold. This is football in a cold climate, in a distant moment. This is the bleak midwinter, and Liverpool as a whole are trudging through the snow, bitterly cold.
We need to find a way to laugh. Honestly. We need to feel less distant, I can’t make it clearer. I am scrapping for life. For a pulse. I am a different thing.
The march is halted but it was halted Wednesday. Liverpool nearly found a spark but instead they gave gifts. Three massive games on the horizon but Liverpool have to stop trudging. We need to. You nearly felt alive. But the gifts, they killed us.
Top four and a Champions League run. But, for both, Liverpool need to be more serious. And Liverpool need to be more fun.
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“Alexander Arnold looked better”…. Got skinned by sterling all game.. Gave away their first, and his hopeful punts called crosses defines his game.
“There’s something about Alcantara”
Ive seen people comment that we should not play the two new lads as they won’t know the system and be out of their depth. Well we went with our two best midfielders and still got hammered. Exceptional circumstances require exceptional decisions.
Jurgen let the team down today and then the team let him and the fans down. They surrender with very little fight and they looked like a team ready to throw the towel in even at 1-1. Even Jurgen looks like he’s lost the will to compete.
For goodness sakes, unless those two centre half were bought for PR by our owners both should play immediately, allowing our midfield to reform before its too late. There is nothing left to lose now.
Oh and lads, do us a favour, stick the boot into the owners occasionally.
Roy Keane loving it on TV. “Bad champions”? “Excuses”? Fergie blamed everything down to shirt colour when they lost a game. No one batted an eyelid last season when City were 20pts behind us because “Laporte was injured”. Whole spine of our team out of balance due to injuries but we’re bad champions? Having said that, could have played our 2 new centre backs today (despite inexperience – City have no strikers) and Fabs and Hendo in their proper positions. Surely it couldn’t have been much worse???
It feels like I’ve gone through the five stages of grief. Denial (they can’t have given that as a penalty; he can’t be out for the season); anger (take your pick); bargaining (have pretty much exhausted all the superstitions at this stage); now I’m somewhere between depression and acceptance.
This has nothing to do with city, though the fact they’re at the scene of the crime, their needy manager smirking away, feels unnecessarily harsh. Sorry, that’s an anger flashback (and spare me Roy Keane’s vaudeville act). Bar De Bruyne, that was their first choice 11. It wasn’t ours, and then Alisson, the world’s best, has a personal ‘mare. It’s time for acceptance – that whatever we do at the moment, a supernatural force, the fates, someone with powers of witchcraft, has basically hexed this. Unseen powers, a strange hand at the tiller. What can you do? Support the lads, and this manager and this club more than ever before. That’s the answer. That, and defiance.
They’ve given everything, but now it’s time to just refocus and try and play our way out of this and finish strong. Champions League glory is still there, and we need to seal top four. This team, with some luck and a few additions, can go again. Our ground, this cathedral, will roar with sound and joy unconfined again. Maybe they should have that parade, when it’s ok to do it. Who cares if it’s a year or two late – these lads deserve it. Maybe by then we’ll have another title. We’ll be back, in every way. It’s only a matter of time.
Exactly, those lads will go again. Personally I think that was coming. Just hadn’t met a team good enough to do it. Becker has been brilliant at times but been poor since fa cup away to united. 16 different CB pairings, thiago and gini will not work together.
The owners do deserve some stick and they will have to dig deep for a centre forward and klopp needs to tweak things the way Guardiola has.
Up the reds
I’m a bit worried about Thiago. Commits way too many fouls and gets booked early like he did today. Aside from that, he has looked a shadow of the player he was at Bayern. I’m not writing him off or anything but he needs to improve. You expect more from your marquee summer signing.
Yeah – its hard to be too critical with the injuries
With all the DB’s injured it has us playing two midfielders there – two of our best and usual starters in the midfield
So we have a weakened defence and a weakened midfield which then affects the forwards
Its no wonder nothing is working…how can it when its setup to work within a particular system and that system has been destroyed by the complete lack of its foundation
Quite frankly we should consider ourselves lucky to even be in the conversation with the run of unprecedented injuries we have had – something that is impossible to plan for
I always look forwards to reading the review and the ratings, they either keep me happy following a good day, and make me laugh following a bad one. Neil keeps talking sense as always. Our team approach is built on stability, energy and focus. All of which very hard to deliver in this world, and our absence robs the energy reserve for the team. We need to get going but the rest of this season is still going to be up hill. As ever, a few good results, combined with good performances will start the run, it’s just getting those results we need in a league where everybody is suffering, including City. Ignore the Keane comments and focus on our team, our city, our home. YNWA.
Mate, much as I agree with most of your writing, we shouldn’t forget that Ali didn’t didn’t play in 26 of those 27 last season. Adrian started 9 of them.
That pedantry aside, the lad had a shite half. We don’t slaughter him for that, we still owe him.
Games against City can always go either way. And if any side makes costly mistakes, then the other capitalizs on that. We played a good game overall. This season we just couldn’t shw the consistency, especially against the “smaller” clubs. That comes down to not playing hard, not showing enough desire to grind a result out.
It’s the mental fatigue that was inevitable. The dip. Top4 is very doable and we still have the CL to look forward to. Never know what might happen with the Reds in Europe.
I am sure we will attack the title again, next season.
Defining moment of season for me was Midtylaand away. Things ticking along nicely, dead rubber, group won, excited to see how our youth players played
Klopp played all four strikers. Insane. And of course Jota got injured. He cannot moan when it’s self-inflicted. Jotas loss alone has cost us at least four points.
You play your two best mids as CB it’s going to unbalance the team. Play your best players in best positions and make do elsewhere
Our midfield even with Hendo in it has been poor for quite some time now. No zip or creativity, mostly stodgy, conservative pass it sideways stuff. The odd decent move but far too much long ball for Mo and Sadio to battle for. Jurgen saw a midfield of Fab, Naby and Fekir fall away for different reasons but that was the one he wanted. Milner, Hendo and Gini just don’t add what those three would have.
There was a degree of inevitability about this dip in performance this season. This isn’t just a hangover from winning the league. It’s 3rd season syndrome after achieving two title winning campaigns (we may not have won league in 2019 but the amount of points put on the board was at title winning level). 3rd season syndrome is why teams rarely win 3 titles in a row. This inevitable dip has been massively exacerbated by all the injuries.
I’d like to see Klopp get back to basics. Get the midfield working again and yes, that means dropping Thiago. If playing the new CB’s means we look fragile then so be it, at least we will hopefully regain our potency.