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“Ay The Bitters Mk.II, all them internet fans” – Bill Shankly

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Are you :

(a) a Liverpool fan?

or

(b) a Liverpool fan that was happy the we beat Huddersfield on Saturday afternoon?

or

(c) a Liverpool fan that knows the team has defensive issues?

But more importantly, are you a Liverpool fan that was happy that we beat Huddersfield but also knows that the team has defensive issues? Because apparently you can’t be both. It’s not humanly possible that you can enjoy a win whilst simultaneously having the brain capacity to grasp the concept that our defence (and midfield) are slowly asphyxiating any trophy ambitions Jurgen Klopp harbours.

We can all agree however that a game against Huddersfield shouldn’t be a must win game. Liverpool should never have got themselves into a position where they were languishing mid-table after too many draws and two energy-sapping defeats against rival teams. The defeat at the Etihad was somewhat accepted due to the switch in fortunes after Mané was sent off, although the reaction was questioned. But the horrific loss at Tottenham was an all time low even for this defence. Ends of tethers and last straws were reached for the most rational fans too. And Dejan Lovren may finally have fallen foul of his long term protector, Jurgen Klopp. Ultimately, my point is that there was little to smile about. And yes, the whole transfer window saga was a sickening blow. Everyone knew it would come and bite us in the backside so referring to it before, in between and after every game isn’t a tactic that’s going to hit the point home any quicker. In fact, it’s just annoying after the first two times. Klopp made a choice and whether we agree with it or not is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. While healthy, constructive criticism of him is fine and actually the sign of a wholesome, functioning mind, those fans who perennially suck the joy out of winning a game because it doesn’t solve the issues should remember it changes nothing and will only make you bitter.

Those three points drag our arse up the table, much like you drag your miserable one around. The doomsayers’ logic is that if we win, Klopp won’t fix the issues and it only papers over the cracks. It certainly does the latter, but my head refuses to believe that a manager of Klopp’s calibre isn’t working to change the predicament that we find ourselves in. It’s quite clear he shot himself in the foot in the summer regarding signing defenders and I can’t see him compounding the error further. The Wembley outing may just have tipped the German over the edge on that one.

Whilst it’s true that the win over Huddersfield didn’t resolve anything except give us three points, what it did do was stop the rot of bad League results and boosted a confidence that was at rock bottom after the Spurs game. If that’s not something to smile about considering what little else we as fans can do, then the point of football has been well and truly missed. I get it. We love our club and want to succeed. God knows we’ve had a torrid time over the last thirty years with a few glimpses of happiness. Five years without a trophy (eleven if you hate the league cup) is far too long for a club like Liverpool.

Klopp’s arrival bought with it high expectations for how he’d lead the club out of the wilderness and back to the top. Debates rage as to whether progress has even been made. A UCL spot was a clear improvement on League form but the poor start to this campaign has left consolidating that spot in doubt. Klopp’s performance (or lack of) in the transfer market had fans questioning his very existence at the club. The signings he has made have been good with Mané and Salah being the obvious picks and Keita, coming next season, promises much. Van Dijk, by all accounts, was on his way until Southampton dug their heels in leaving Liverpool embarrassed and devoid of their defensive saviour. Why Klopp didn’t go for another option, no one really knows. Did Klopp feel he needed to hold out for the Dutchman till January because the latter effectively went on strike to force a move to Anfield? Whatever it was, it has left Liverpool in tatters at the back.

Klopp’s persistence with certain players is another justified cause for concern. But the blowback from the lack of strengthening needs to be managed whether we like it or not. Apart from maybe the goalkeeper, positions need to be rotated or turned to in the event of injuries. As much as fans want Lovren out of the team, I don’t know if putting a youngster permanently in his place is the answer. As good as Gomez has shown he can be, is it fair to put him into an already inefficient defence? Even without Lovren, the back four and midfield have shown major shortcomings. Rewatch the third and fourth goals against Spurs for reference. It could even damage the progress of a promising player. The same can be applied to Alexander-Arnold. Playing him alongside a Gomez may prove problematic in the long run; to both players and the team. More so the former. It’s simply not fair to expect the to pull Liverpool out of the doldrums when they should be learning their trade free of that kind of pressure. Klopp’s decision to go with the same back five that failed miserably at Wembley showed that he’s not one to panic, and believes that until he has a viable alternative his best option at the moment is to keep the faith even if the fans have none.

It’s very possible to understand the nuances of all the above plights and still appreciate the team when they’ve won a game. Maybe more so as they won despite the issues. Balance, my friends. We all have our moments after a bad result but some do live to prolong the reaction for a whole week and even beyond, rendering them incapable of any enjoyment of the game. I still have faith that Klopp will turn things around. It just seems he’s doing it the hard way but then the results are so much more satisfying that way. So until we lose again, you’ll need to save your angry energy. So in the meantime, just fucking smile. It doesn’t hurt.

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