Latest posts by Liam Divilly (see all)
- Perfection and Luck: The Bare Minimum If Liverpool Want To Win A League Title - November 5, 2018
- Xherdan Shaqiri – Liverpool’s Next Cult Hero? - October 29, 2018
- Big Decision Could Await Klopp As Pressure On Salah Builds - October 19, 2018
Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving it.
The Reds are joint top of the league, and are one good ninety minutes away from putting daylight in between us and City on Sunday evening.
Liverpool’s record of played seven, won six and drawn one was further topped off with a last-gasp victory over the cash-strapped Parisians who came to town and experienced the same fate as so many before them had.
You’re meant to be enjoying this. Truth be told, you should be able to enjoy it regardless of whether we’re winning or losing. You’re only asking for further misery to be heaped upon you if you can’t.
But, while the Reds were described as ‘not getting out of 2nd gear’ through the opening four wins in August, it does seem like Jurgen Klopp’s side have jammed it in neutral over the last ten days.
A blind eye can be turned to the League Cup game, as Liverpool did the decent thing and went out at the earliest stage possible.
(I’m very much looking forward to Chelsea’s season being derailed in January because of it. It’s all good and well beating Cardiff at home in September, but all the best when you have to play an F.A. Cup replay away to Wolves and then a League Cup semi first-leg against City in the snow, about five hours apart from one another.)
But aside from the glory of Liverpool’s League Cup mediocrity, there’s been little to have been overly impressed by in the last two weeks.
It’s now October, and by Sunday evening we’ll already have completed one-fifth of the season.
If Liverpool want to win this League, they invariably will have to start playing well at some stage. That’s how it fundamentally works, but especially when you’re up against a team like Manchester City’s.
The Reds’ last two performances were odd, and that’s putting it mildly.
It wasn’t just the usually so-brilliant gameplan not coming off on a few occasions. It wasn’t just Liverpool ‘not quite clicking’, as has so often been the narrative from supporters.
Both games, but especially Liverpool’s defeat in Naples, were oddly uncharacteristic.
Jürgen Klopp: "The second half was not good enough. It's always a bad sign when you have to say your goalkeeper was your best player, but it was obvious tonight. A big part of the performance is my fault. It didn't look like it should have done tonight."#LFC
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) October 3, 2018
Trent Alexander-Arnold wildly over-hitting diagonal balls and crosses into the box. Mohamed Salah misplacing passes and not able to take the ball past a full-back for his life despite all his desperation to do so.
Roberto Firmino left with no options when picking up the ball in the opposition half. Liverpool’s counter-attack, which was feared far and wide across Europe last season, recently almost non-existent. Virgil Van Dijk slicing clearances and Liverpool looking both open, and shaky, at the back.
I’ve got no problem with lads playing poorly. To be honest, I never even bother building up any lofty expectations for the team in my head, once the eleven players on that pitch are somewhat competent and giving it their all, then I’m fine with that.
But the away clashes against Chelsea and Napoli didn’t look like things ‘not quite clicking’, nor did it look like Liverpool just being a bit more cautious in order to secure a draw.
Looking up as a centre-half, seeing no options, lashing the ball seventy yards diagonally and seeing it sail comfortably over Sadio Mane’s head and out for a throw-in isn’t playing for a draw, it’s just poor play.
It changes the context and narrative of the season fairly dramatically if you zoom out and examine the campaign for a moment.
Results dictate the narrative around football matches. The draw against Chelsea in the league was a prime example of this.
One strike of the ball from Daniel Sturridge and headlines went from “Out-of-sync Reds lost at sea against Sarri’s all-conquering Blues”, to “Resilient Liverpool’s quality off the bench snatches a late draw for Klopp’s side”.
Equally, a injury-time goal conceded turns the cliché “it’s the sign of a good team when you can win playing poorly”, to “crap all game, we got what we deserved”.
Often it’s just better to look at the performances when assessing a run of games.
In September, there was talk of Liverpool never conceding a goal again, yet alone losing. Now, you can make an argument that this side have picked up more points this season from teams being scared that we’re brilliant, than we have from actually being brilliant.
This is fine. City won a league with that strategy last year (although they did prove the opposition right a bit more frequently than Liverpool have this year), and no matter how Klopp’s men play for the rest of this season, it’s very hard to see them dropping any more than eight or nine points at home in the league.
Teams are now coming to Anfield beaten, happy to take a two-nil defeat. Cardiff City will do the same on the 27th of this month.
But games like this Sunday versus Guardiola’s Mancunians will be the deciding factor in whether or not Liverpool end a 29-year wait to again be crowned as best team in the country. The Reds have to click at some stage, and it has to be sooner rather than later.
There’s nothing guaranteeing Mohamed Salah to score at least 30 goals this season. There’s nothing guaranteeing our back four and goalkeeper to be imperious all season long just because of how impressive they were in the first four games in August.
From Alisson in goals, all the way to Firmino up top and the likes of Shaqiri and Fabinho coming off the bench in between, Liverpool’s players now have to take responsibility and realise the opportunity they have.
So enjoy it. Soak it in and make the most of it. Liverpool are level with the league leaders, or more correctly, Manchester City are level with the next champions of England.
But it’s now October. The mighty boys in red can’t win a league playing like this forever. At some stage soon, they will have to get back to where they were last season.
Make it this Sunday Reds. Please, make it this Sunday.