It’s weird how your mood can change from taking a point. City are a fantastic side, but so are Liverpool


Five years ago this week I was walking through Paris with my mates a few hours before our Champions League game at PSG. Throughout that day there were stories of how much Reds had been overcharged for paltry amounts of beer and food. Jamie had spent over £50 on four not-quite-pints.

As with many of these encounters there was little talk of the actual game. Most away afternoons are seldom about what’s to come at all. Instead it’s about finding somewhere decent with seating and with the chance to bump into other people you might know but don’t.

As we made our way to the Metro, my mate Marc said something that’s stuck with me ever since. ‘We might lose this, you know.’

It’d been in my head too. Liverpool might lose this.

I mean, no one wants to be cocky or say point blank that we’re going to batter these and actually mean it but we do tend to expect a win. Is that smug? It’s not meant to be. It’s just that we’ve usually got a rough idea of the outcome. No disrespect to Brentford but I wasn’t panicking about playing them a few weeks back. We’ll probably win that. A draw at worst.

Normally, I can’t stand negativity. I hate seeing pundits talk about a Top Four finish. I want Liverpool to win the league and even when they don’t I want that to be the target – not to be the fourth best side in the country. We should only want that when we’re fifth.

It’s got to be a special side when you think about the realistic prospect of losing. It’s what made Saturday’s game so fascinating; a barometer. Where are we now?

At the start of the season it was all about transition and the new midfield. As the results came in that escalated to talk of a league title – something I’m always up for. Saturday would show if we were miles off or right up with them.

A word about City. The side, I mean, not the funding.

I’ve only had one problem with them and that’s the first name of their team. Manchester. Obviously, I understand the anger at the 115 charges but it’s the Premier League’s cowardice on the subject which irks me more. As a footballing proposition they’re fantastic. Problematically so.

Their ability lies in their love of space. Go strong in the middle and they’ll overload you down the sides. Pull your midfield over and they’ll switch it. Of course, any Premier League side can do that but other sides don’t have Jeremy Doku or Bernardo Silva.

And they never rest up. It takes one error and they’ll punish you. That’s a lot to contend with over 100 minutes. Would Liverpool be able to hack that? Would they play (the footballing end of) City or their reputation? The latter will always get in your head more. That was my question before kick-off.

It also reminded me of the Chelsea game in 2008 when we were going for the League. At some point, we had to beat them at Stamford Bridge. This wasn’t a season where we could lose there and hope to make up the difference in home wins. A statement had to be made. 

And it was. 1-0. Alonso.

The game where Pepe Reina was furious at our end for throwing the ball back to him at a goal kick instead of keeping it.

Anyway, on Saturday, we stood up. We played it pretty much perfectly. The midfield held strong, Kostas was great and though Trent didn’t win all of his battles, he got to celebrate in front of their fans. I do believe their poverty songs ‘fed the Scouser’ so thanks for that (129 food banks in Manchester incidentally. A fact mentioned for clarity rather than one-upmanship. It’s a disgrace that either city should have any).

It’s weird how your mood can change from taking a point. Luton – bad, City – a statement. City are a fantastic side but Liverpool went there, stayed in the game and got what we deserved.

Where are we now?

Look, this side isn’t the finished article. There’s more to come, further development and further understanding needed, but stronger Liverpool sides have shipped a ton of goals at that place. Character gets you further and we had that in spades. The heart on show would make the most curmudgeonly beam. If this is ‘just’ a transition season then we’re well ahead of schedule. There’ll be errors to come, mistakes come quicker to the new and inexperienced. What it is is a foundation to build on.

Newcastle, Chelsea and City away all done. We’ve lost one away league game this season and that was to a man in a comfy chair.

Where are we now? Here. And here is a good place. They’re up for this and I feel ashamed for momentarily doubting them on Saturday morning.

City are fantastic. And do you know what? So are we.

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