Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 1 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…
BACK at Anfield.
Back being angry at the refereeing.
Back watching Liverpool go 1-0 down.
Back being blown away by the attacking talent on show.
We’ll get to the refereeing, I promise.
Let’s start with being back. It is always someone’s first time. I say this because I interviewed someone on Friday for whom it is their first time, I sat next to someone for whom it was their first time and I have just walked into The Glenbuck to be greeted by somebody whose first time it was.
You say you’ve never been sure.
We wander to this ground, haphazardly, off a train and a 20-minute walk and at times take for granted what we get to see. Liverpool, who we love and who have so many of the world’s best players, playing a team who are probably in the best 50 in the world. That’s just the case now – most Premier League teams are in the best 50.
This sport the world plays, and plays by ours, it is just that good.
But it was Wataru Endo’s first time. Alexis Mac Allister’s first time. Dominik Szoboszlai’s first time.
Szoboszlai first. Oh my god. It is important not to get carried away, but he could well be the greatest player ever to play for Liverpool. He looks like one of those footballers who will be better by virtue of playing for Liverpool. Just putting on the shirt makes him 10 per cent better.
He’s strong, hard running and has both a lovely touch and a burst of acceleration. I feel like he wants to win the league more than you. He has vision and is just the most obvious upgrade as was always the case. I would watch him again tomorrow.
Alexis Mac Allister has the hardest of lines. He gets swamped for 20 minutes, but shows his class with some deft touches and turns and headers. He has some brilliant pictures in his head.
He needs to know two things:
1. It is not always like this at Anfield.
2. We are atrociously refereed at Anfield.
I’ve found two difficult to deal with. To be clear: Alisson could be sent off; Szoboszlai’s penalty was a classic example of the penalty area being the wrong size and shape. Something as innocuous as that challenge shouldn’t result in a three in four chance of a goal.
But the red card is not a red card. What compounds the situation for Mac Allister is that the referee gets in his way. And this means he is a little late. A little. It is, at most, a yellow. No one asks for a red. Virgil van Dijk isn’t even looking.
I get the whole campaign around respecting referees. I want to respect referees. I just need them not to be appalling. Last weekend I praised Anthony Taylor. Praised Anthony Taylor! But they need to be better. Just need to be better. It is killing me. I want to go to Anfield and think it will be sound. Not perfect, but sound.
And it is Wataru Endo’s first time. He wins this big tackle at 3-1 and then legs it forward. Lad – we aren’t short of that. Just sit there. But I understand getting carried away. That’s part of how it works, getting carried away.
He’s surprised by the pace at times and that is the overall concern. But then he had breakfast in Stuttgart on Wednesday morning with no sense he would be coming on at Anfield on Saturday, The Reds down to 10.
There he was. It would be the best day of my life. But it shouldn’t be the best day of his. Because he has much more to do and he has a phenomenal set of players around him.
This is Liverpool’s cheat code – they have the most astonishing array of attackers. I love them. Adore them. Luis Diaz has become gloriously direct. His goal is so special. Mo Salah gets away with murder.
But Diogo Jota’s second half is football from and of the gods. He is tremendous in all phases. He is brilliant with and without the ball. He deserves his goal because it is his goal. Scruffy but certain.
Liverpool start the game appallingly, they are uncertain. There is an issue with the early approach in that Liverpool take a ton of risks at the moment the opposition have the most energy to stop their risks, to remove reward. Liverpool’s ability to choose the moment to walk a tightrope of their making has gone through the floor. They pick the moment their opponent is at their strongest.
It is just daft. They begin breathing from 20. By 40, Bournemouth are shattered. But the plan cannot be stupidity. It cannot be to not just dangle a carrot to be snatched. You never have to face up to the night on your own.
We’re better than we were. We show that as the game matures. Oh yeah, we’ve grown. We’re back and we are blown away and we should be delighted in one sense, but there is a video in another.
My main thing is that they are now 13 unbeaten and look better. They haven’t lost a home game since Leeds United and look better. They could do with being competently refereed but look better. Changed so much since then, oh yeah.
More to come and no lovely clean ending. Nothing sweet. Go to Newcastle and get something, anything. It isn’t pretty yet. But they have the best array of attacking talent, they are back and they have offered some brilliant first times. That’ll do for this week.
You say you’ve never been sure.