Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…
I ALWAYS write these for someone.
Often that someone is Adam Melia.
Adam once said to me that the reason he loves Future Islands and The Proclaimers is that they write direct, no messing, working-class love songs.
Here we are.
This is it.
This is being in love.
Liverpool were not good. They were not good individually, they were not good structurally, they were not good in moments, they were not good in the round.
I think the manager got it wrong. I think the individual players didn’t help them. I think they got out of jail and I think it has to be better.
And I love them. I love them all, every single one of them. I love Darwin Nunez who is too often offside and too often uncertain, which is weird but true. I love Luis Diaz, who became an island, and who needs to go at his full back more, and who needs to find a way to find goals and assists soon and regularly.
I love Ryan Gravenberch, who is now so much like a project he is a solo artist about to leave a band. I love Wataru Endo, who needs to be stronger. I love Dominik Szoboszlai, who needs to find grace because he has everything else but grace is the last thing.
I love Ibou Konate, who loves giving away a daft freekick, and I love Jarell Quansah, who gave away a daft penalty but will come on leaps and bounds for the start, like a juvenile hurdler.
I love Kostas Tsimikas, though he will drive me to distraction. It needs to be better in all phases and he needs to not drive his centre-back mad.
His centre-back. The start of the love which is unequivocal because he is the business. It is 1-2 and 95 minutes and Virgil van Dijk pings a freekick to feet. He is the best of us and by us I mean “humans” and “Liverpudlians”. He is the best southender ever to live and you can listen to last night’s AFQ for free to know why this is a joke and yet another statement of love.
Trent Alexander-Arnold doesn’t play well, by his standards, but he never stops. West Derby’s finest grafts and believes and carries his load with aplomb and flair.
Representing the city centre is Curtis Jones, who comes off the bench when it’d be fair to have a chip on his shoulder and instead shoulders the burden. He carries the load and shows, and shows, and shows, and I love the centre of city. Everyone handsome, everyone pretty.
I’ll claim Harvey Elliott for the North, claim him for the fact he fucking backs himself and loves the rest of you and is fast in everything he does well. His brilliance is kind and underrated and full of sheer, cliff face desire. He is Kev Walsh or Ben Johnson. Combining being the best with understanded kindness and humility. This is a love song and I am always in love. Harvey. Swoon.
And the South. The actual fuck off south of England for us. I love the South, love London. But for now call it the Wirral. For no reason other than narrative convenience and general soundness. The peninsula and Joe Gomez are the best of us, pregnant with possibility and full of desire and and option no one saw coming. Joe Gomez is Future Yard. The answer to a question no one asked, but an answer so emphatic you have to sit up and take notice. An answer beyond belief. The Future is Birkenhead.
Joe Gomez is humble and has recovered from every setback and the truth of it is this: because of Joe Gomezes we can win the football league again. Because this is a romance, I promise you it is. I promise you it is sweet and unironic.
And I love the main fella. With 200 Liverpool goals, he’s the man I never knew I wanted and the man I got. The best footballer I have ever seen and the best footballer who can be scruffy and brilliant, awkward and brilliant, poor and brilliant. Mohamed Salah is a marvel and in a ton of ways is the best thing ever to happen to me. He makes the universe make sense. The universe is an arc, bending towards Mo Salah. He is global. And he is ours. All of ours. He is the best one.
I write this as a love song and as a kindness and as Liverpool are top of the league and I watched it in the Red Lion and I wish you could have been there, wish we could have had every moment together, wish we could have clambered on one another but I love the people I clambered with. I picked Pete Bolster up. I got kissed by Kev. I told Rob Gutmann I loved him, because this is always a love song and I regret nothing and mean everything. I have no irony, I just have being on the march.
But sometimes shut up and play the hits. Just shut up and play the hits. The hits. Number one on my Desert Island Discs, the greatest tune you have ever heard:
Liverpool: top o the league.
Libpool, Libpool top the league.
Liverpool: top o team league
Libpool, Libpool top the league.