Liverpool have been behind three times in their five league games so far this season, so are The Reds’ slow starts to games here to stay?
I’VE been reading Joe Calzaghe’s autobiography.
I’m no expert on boxing but I was living in South Wales at the time he was coming up, so it was nice to recognise some of the places he mentions.
The most enlightening part of the book was his confession that he wasn’t always the best champion. That’s rare in a sport based on self-belief and histrionic shouts, but the ‘Italian Dragon’ admits that motivation waxed and waned during 10-year reign.
He found he was up for more fights than others. In one chapter he seems embarrassed at a workmanlike display he put on in an early title defence. Oh, he knew he’d win, but just couldn’t get up for it. Subsequently, his training was half-hearted as he knew his style and talent would get him through. Muscle memory and talent would be enough. It always was.
That’s a risky strategy. As Mike Tyson once said: ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’ All fighters get smacked around a bit and it only takes a bad one to end even the best.
The same goes for Liverpool. Alright, there are no bloodied mouths or dizzying headshots here, but if this season has proved one thing it’s that we like to lead with our chin in the early stages. Liverpool seldom start well now. The season is only five games down and we’ve already gone behind three times.
The first half against Wolves was horrific. There’s no other word.
Jürgen Klopp’s been punchy all week. Having a go at a journalist for what seemed like a fair question and then making a centre back a right back/midfielder hybrid against their best player who ripped him time and again.
Alexis Mac Allister had a nightmare, though it’s understandable to see why, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip were Wolves’ best forwards for a bit while Curtis Jones and Dom Szoboszlai couldn’t control the play. Half time was a mercy.
Then we remembered what we’re good at. Up went the gloves and we traded blows rather than running around the pitch with our chin out for a dare. The substitutes changed the game completely.
Liverpool became Liverpool again rather than an experimental jazz outfit in lounge suits. Joe went back to being a functional full back, Darwin Nunez ran at them in a way Cody Gakpo either couldn’t or wouldn’t and Harvey Elliott became every tired defender’s nightmare. Give him the goal for Christ’s sake!
This is where the game isn’t an exact science. Darwin or Cody? You can see why there are cases for both before a ball’s been kicked, but once you’re there and living it …
I suppose this is where we gauge our half-full glasses. Elated at the win or concerned about the first half. As a ‘serial complainer’ (heavy ego’d Guardian journalist 2007) I’m bound to embrace the latter perspective. I’ve left grounds after wins and been furious to the point of silence.
Why do we start so slowly? Bournemouth and Wolves should have been two up before we got going. Worrying.
Or is it? There’s 90 minutes to a game (nearer a hundred these days) and the start is near perfect. We’ve got a brand-new midfield, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk will be back soon and our forward line is incredible.
Maybe I’m just worried about the left hook nobody noticed. I loved the win, but… Maybe this is just the chaos, the ride. The dance, as Brendan Rodgers called it.
They put you through it, these lads. They don’t always mean to but they just do.
Moyes is next.