It shouldn’t feel like a bad result. A draw away at Arsenal should never feel like a bad result. But sadly, when Andre Marriner blew the full-time whistle on Saturday evening, it just didn’t feel like a point was enough.
Last year, Liverpool went to the Emirates, drew three-all, and ended up walking away from the game disappointed. It was two points dropped rather than a point gained. But that was following a Liverpool implosion from two-nil up where the Reds tried everything to lose the game.
This year there was none of that. Arsenal’s goal was a touch of class and Liverpool were managing the game well up until that point. Klopp’s side didn’t miss a whole host of opportunities following the equaliser. If anything, the Gunners looked the more likely team to score a winner in the final minutes.
The frustration at full-time wasn’t so much aimed at the players or the manager, it was aimed at the uncontrollable circumstance that this side finds itself in.
Manchester City are so brilliant, they’ve forced us to come away from the Emirates disappointed with a draw, in a game where it was clearly the fairest of the three possible results.
As I write this, twelve minutes have been played at the Etihad in their tie with Southampton, and City lead two-nil. This is what we’re up against. A team where three points isn’t the hope, nor is it the expectation. Three points is the formality that takes place weekly.
They haven’t just moved the goalposts in terms of points needed, they’ve shrunk them as well. They’ve made them so small, so nanoscopic, that Liverpool have to be perfect in almost every way to find the metaphorical net of the league title. Liverpool’s margin for error is as miniscule as any team’s has been in Premier League history.
Yes, the Reds can be fairly crap for ninety minutes and still beat Cardiff at a canter, or Huddersfield away from home by a single goal. But those aren’t the games where this title will be decided.
Last season, City won the league after 33 games played. Their record in those 33 games? Won twenty-eight, drew three, lost two.
One loss was at Anfield, where they’ve already avoided defeat this campaign.
One was against United, which continues to exist as a possibility due to the Everton-like inferiority complex they occasionally fall victim to in Manchester derbies.
The three draws were against mid-table opposition. They’ll likely end up with a similar record by May. There will surely be a draw at a Vicarage Road or a Selhurst Park at some stage to add to the slight stumble they suffered at Molineux back in August, but nothing more damaging than that.
No one would be surprised if they won every single home game against the bottom 14 in the league. Who’s even going to try and beat them?
How different it was five years ago. As hindsight becomes foggier and memories fade, it’s easy to convince yourself that it was like this in 13/14. It’s easy to think that Liverpool had to be perfect to get within 2 points of Pellegrini’s side. It’s easy to think that City were boss then as well.
They were, but to nowhere near the same extent as now.
By mid November, City had already lost four games in the league. Four.
Bar falling completely off the rails, the 18/19 version of Man City won’t lose four games all season.
They had also suffered a nil-nil draw away at Stoke by this time in 2013. In February, they lost at home to title rivals Chelsea. In April, Phil Coutinho seemingly robbed Pellegrini’s team of any remaining title hopes.
ON THIS DAY: In 2014: Liverpool beat Man City 3-2 at Anfield with goals from Sterling, Skrtel and Coutinho. pic.twitter.com/QjgX7HrWwA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 13, 2016
Despite all this, they win it on 86 points. Bar falling completely off the rails, City will pass 90 points this year.
Bar an unlikely dry spelll, City will reach 95 points.
Just take the league table out. Read it from two to twenty. Where are City dropping points? When they play us at home in January? Maybe, but even then it will be extremely hard for us to get more than a draw there.
The two Manchester derbies? Alright, fair enough. A handful of points away against the dross of the bottom 14? Optimistic, but okay.
After that, it’s wishful thinking. They’ve gone away to Spurs and won. They’ve vanquished Arsenal, albeit a much more typically abject version of the Gunners than Liverpool faced on Saturday. They came to Anfield and drew.
This isn’t pessimism. Every day I wake up and I’m bouncing at the prospect of experiencing the best night out in human history next May after we beat Wolves. But, this side minus Riyad Mahrez literally got 100 points last season.
The chances are running out. Never before have Liverpool been as desperate for a Manchester United win as they will be this Sunday.
The Reds should put everything in to a title challenge. The Reds should never give up the dream.
But the Reds will need to be perfect to even have half a chance.
We go again.