I told you- hysteria after Madrid defeat was unwarranted
Liverpool showed where they are really heading as they humiliated a team both overhyped and overconfident
This may not be my strongest writing, as 24 hours ago I was laid down in hospital, sedated, with a camera up my arse (yes, you read that right) . The colonoscopy went okay and while I feel normal, I’ve been told the sedative effects take 24 hours to fully leave your body. But I couldn’t not write about this game!
The preparation for it was far worse than the procedure itself (it included 35-40 hours of starvation and taking four litres of laxatives which tasted like sweat), but Liverpool’s win and all the media that followed kept me going, and I am close to feeling 100% again. The results of my test (as well as Liverpool’s match) show nothing to worry about, although they also don’t provide an explanation behind the tendency for my stomach to inflate like a beach ball. It could of course be much worse!
(For example, you could support Man United). I hope you enjoy the piece anyway:
My dad summed it up perfectly when he sent me this message after the game: “When we play like this no team in the globe can touch us. Arsenal or City will win the league but neither can ever play like this.”
One of my flaws is I enjoy being right a bit too much- but it is very hard when I refused to write off this team, to write off top four, to write off Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo, when that’s what so many insisted on doing, only for the team to go and beat Manchester United, who were ten points clear of the Reds, 7-0.
Quite ironic that during Klopp’s “seventh season syndrome” (another nonsense theory I refused to subscribe to) Liverpool managed to pull off this historic result.
A few weeks ago, after Liverpool lost 5-2 to Madrid in a freak result, there was an insistence that the whole team needed rebuilding and questions needed to be asked of the manager. I said it was a freak, a fluke, and undeserved- and that the team was still improving and heading in the right direction.
To an extent, 7-0 was also a freak result, granted, but I thought every single goal was great, or at least good- and involved quality, apart from potentially Salah’s second, whereas two of Madrid’s goals were deflections or blocks, and there was a free header from four yards out.
Liverpool didn’t deserve to lose by a lot against Madrid, but they played United off the park. Ten Hag’s men had a good ten to fifteen minute period, where they created a few half chances, which according to Gary Neville, equated to them being the better team in the first half. I don’t think so.
The analysis on MOTD 2 and on MNF shows the rot was starting to set from the first half, with Antony and Casemiro dropping major stinkers.
Roy Keane also rightly pointed out that United have looked vulnerable lately, but the teams they have been up against haven’t had the quality to make it count. Liverpool did.
Man United won the League Cup with extremely favourable fixtures in their draws (they have constantly been drawn as the home team) and suddenly a new era has begun. I suppose a new era begun for Swansea when they won the same cup (but in fairness, they won at Anfield and Stamford Bridge along the way), or indeed Liverpool in 2011/2012, who went onto have a mediocre season, and the next campaign was no better. Indeed, they wouldn't win another trophy until 2019 (albeit that was the Champions League).
I’m not saying Ten Hag hasn’t had a positive impact or that he isn’t a good manager. I’m not saying the League Cup is a tin pot trophy or that I wasn’t delighted when Liverpool won it. Or that United shouldn’t have celebrated it.
I’m saying that the “Erik ten Hag era has begun” tweet instantly looked like an own goal, and it’s far too early to be labelling a Ten Hag a genius. His League Cup victory certainly does not merit that description.
He also scored an own goal in his press conference before the match by dismissing the impact Anfield can have on players, arrogantly assuming that it is no different to any other stadium. “For me it’s no different. The ball is round, there is air in the ball, huh?”
I do admire Ten Hag, but seriously? Surely you are better off acknowledging the impact Anfield can have and preparing your players the best you can rather just dismissing it.
United may well bounce back, but it was certainly a reality check for everyone involved with the club. They may be heading in the right direction, but this result following their victories against Barcelona and Newcastle, is surely a case of one step forward, two steps back. Anyway, enough about United.
One of the other points I made in my Madrid piece was that what we saw in the first half, especially the first twenty minutes, was what Klopp is shaping the team to become in the future, whereas large parts of the second half is what is being left behind. On Sunday, we saw none of the latter, and lots of the former.
I have to admit I was dubious (but nowhere near outraged, like some) about Elliott starting ahead of Bajcetic, but it proved to be absolutely the right call. Klopp said it was a case of “balance” and with Fabinho and Henderson returning to form, and Elliott putting in a fantastic performance, Liverpool controlled the game, and finally, looked horrible to play against (whereas previously, that statement would have ended at “looked horrible”).
Idiots who wrote off Gakpo after less than five games in a broken team now look as silly as Lisandro Martinez, who at one point looked like he was running away from Salah, before drunkenly falling over in the lead-up to the Flying Dutcman’s second goal. That was the pick of the bunch for me; a great counter attack, brilliant dribbling, perfectly weighted and timed pass met by an intelligent run which also exhibited Gakpo’s frightening pace, and then a really good finish from what looked like an impossible angle.
Liverpool got fortunate for some of the goals in how the ball broke, but every finish was clean and most were excellent, or featured quality in the build up. I’ve said repeatedly that on the most part, good confidence brings about good luck, and vice versa.
It is upsetting that Firmino will be leaving at the end of the season, but I do think it’s the best for everyone; I had suspected it as soon as Gakpo joined, and the more I’ve watched him, the more it has made/ makes sense. After the disastrous 3-0 defeat to Brighton, many were questioning why Gakpo was playing through the middle and Nunez on the left (though Nunez didn’t play that day) but it’s all becoming clear now. Gakpo’s link up play is excellent and Nunez’s pace is electrifying. The front three absolutely tore United to shreds.
They were involved in every single goal, scoring six between them, while Salah assisted the 7th. (“Salah assisted the 7th against Man United. Just a normal every day sentence.”) A year on from the Africa Cup of Nations, Salah is now on top form again.
Finally having Konate partner van Dijk again has made the defence look far less jittery, and there’s been a massive improvement in the set piece department.
Now add Thiago and Diaz to the equation, as well as a new midfielder or two, and potentially more depth in defence (just one left sided addition should do) and you have a team capable of winning titles. Undoubtedly.
There’s been a confidence crisis for large parts of this season but many of the issues have been rectified by the genius (and he’s earnt that title) that is Jurgen Klopp. The Reds have cut out the issue of constantly falling 1-0 behind, they are running again, pressing properly, and are looking potent throughout the game rather than in patches.
The Madrid result was and is such a shame because I am convinced that with more luck in the injury department, this team could challenge for the Champions League, but at least only having the league to focus on will help in the race for top four, in which I’ve gone from having little confidence to having plenty of confidence that Klopp’s men will make it. Depending on how United respond to Sunday, Liverpool could even go above them; there’s a long way to go.
It’s also worth mentioning how superb Robertson was; full of running, defensively alert, brilliant in the press, and I think his assist for Gakpo is one of the best I’ve ever seen from him, and different to his usual assists in the form of crosses.
Trent-Can’t Defend- Arnold had Marcus-Best Player In The World-Rashford in his back pocket. Darwin-Shit Andy Caroll-Nunez bagged a brace. Cody-Useless-Gakpo was elite. Harvey-Not Ready- Elliott outplayed Carlos- Best Midfielder In The League- Casemiro.
As cliched as it sounds, it really just seemed to click in that second half, and I am so proud of how these boys have turned things around so quickly and so dramatically. The challenge is to sustain it and not to let the old frailties return; they may well in some moments, but on the whole, I do think Klopp and his staff have managed to turn this around. Which, all season, I’ve said would happen.
Even in a season I’ve described as the least enjoyable of my life, Liverpool have won a match that I consider to be one of my favourites of all time. One that will be remembered forever. I’ve talked about own goals in this piece, and I may be about to score a spectacular one, but it feels as though on Sunday we saw the makings of a fantastic team being rebuilt; the start of a new, exciting journey under an elite football manager.
Before I wrap up, a word on the officiating; not good enough. Manchester United’s team lost their heads, the same way they lost their heads at 5-0 and 4-0 last season, and the officials didn’t do enough to control it. They literally let Man United’s captain push the linesman out of the way. It wasn’t Di Canio level, but it was clear Fernandes lost the plot, and he didn’t even get a talking to. McTominay should have been sent off and not making that decision only encouraged further shithousery.
I can’t really blame United’s players for losing their heads, as I would probably lose my head if I was losing 7-0 at a five aside game, but I can blame the officials for doing nothing about it.
As much as I criticise officials, I am also a proponent of more protection for referees, but what do they expect when they can’t even protect themselves?
A lot of the time the mistakes officials isn’t making a bad decision, it’s just bottling a big call. It’s the not doing anything that’s frustrating. And there’s a serious issue with Salah not being given fouls too.
But what a day. Liverpool are currently in transition, with new, younger players being integrated into the first team and displacing some of the older members of the squad, and the future looks bright.
Jurgen Klopp is not too loyal. He has a vision for this team and if Sunday symbolises what’s to come we are in for a treat.
Man United capitulated on Sunday, but it takes a special team to make their rivals capitulate and concede seven when they are on top form, and have extremely high levels of confidence; to make players who have looked impressive look like numpties; to capitalise on the opportunities presented to them; to suddenly make a game that once looked tight turn into a party, within minutes. This is a special team.
Anyway, I’ll finish there as I’m getting thirsty; might go round the corner shop and grab a 7up.