Neil Atkinson’s post-match review after Liverpool 2 Leicester City 0 in the Premier League at Anfield, as The Reds earn a mundane win…


LIVERPOOL are nothing special tonight. Liverpool are so much better than Leicester City.

Last season these came fifth. They looked for all the world like they were going to take our Champions League place. Looked for all the world as though they had moves. They won the FA Cup.

Liverpool are nothing special tonight. Liverpool are so much better than Leicester City. This is worth dwelling on. Last season Liverpool’s world fell down around them. Last season Liverpool played to empty arenas with injury ravaged teams. Last season Liverpool fell apart slowly and then so, so quickly.

This week, as part of his dissertation, Pete Fitz — Paddy Fitz‘s taller, sounder brother — came in to interview me about what lockdown football was like. I remembered how it hurt. How it was contextless in so many ways. How we started doing post-match AFQ because the lows were the lowest and the highs were speedbumps compared to mountains, on the rare occasion they came.

Tonight Liverpool were nothing special. They didn’t need to be. Their lack of special suggests so much special is possibly to come.

They were better in all phases of play. They made the task unbearable for a Leicester side who couldn’t really bear the prospect, let alone the reality. The bedrock was the two centre halves who could well be the best pair we have ever had. Who could be the best pair on the planet.

Liverpool were nothing special by Liverpool’s standards. By the normal world’s standards, Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip were unplayable. Were impeccable. Were practically perfect in every way.

It verges on anti sport when they get like this. In the run in of 2018-19 they got like this. They compressed games and attacks. Everyone played on the terms set by Liverpool’s central defenders. This is being the best. The best of the best. By virtue of the position being that good is about being that consistent. Being consistent can be seen as being dull.

In attack Diogo Jota doesn’t play brilliantly but he finishes impeccably. He removes brilliance from being necessary in the equation. He replaces it with efficiency. He gets two good chances. Scores two good goals. Tell your story walking. Liverpool would have won any way. Liverpool would have won anyway. Liverpool would have won. Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix.

Elsewhere, Mo Salah misses when he should score but he gets clattered in the way where the rules seem to allow. Luis Diaz delights and enjoys and harries and my god does he tackle. He tackles and tackles with unlikely telescopic legs.

Harvey Elliott comes on and can’t get going. Curtis went off having not got going. This wasn’t special and that’s fine. It’s football. It’s winning football, trophy winning football.

But Thiago Alcantara was special. He wasn’t my man of the match. He wasn’t even in my top three. That’s the goalscorer and the centre backs. He was, though, my favourite. Our favourites don’t have to be brilliant. This one though is.

Everything he does is the best way it could possibly be done. His five-yard passes make me gasp. His class, his aesthetic, his brain, his scope, his technique, his appreciation, his desire to thrill leave me breathless.

Last time I played six a side, I picked Pete Fitz — Paddy Fitz’s taller, sounder brother — out with a pass with the outside of my right foot. I have passed the ball, is my point. But what I do, what most people do, is nothing special. What Premier League footballers do is special. What Thiago Alcantara does is something other, something greater, something more again.

His scissor kick remarkable. His presence impeccable. His aura is my everything. Kisses that come all the way from China, kinda remind her of memories of Spain. Me and John Prine, there.

Look. Tonight is a staging post. It isn’t special. I promise you it isn’t. It is something to be done. And done and done. The special is to come and then there we’ll be all together forever and a day.

Nothing special. Better than almost all who have come before them. Into these, Liverpool. Keep it mundane and pick your moments. Because there could be so, so many of them. Promise handsome. Promise gorgeous.

This league isn’t going to win itself.

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