(Am assuming that most readers are familiar with the appropriate anti-Chelsea song. Just replace the second line with the title of this piece and we’re moving right along.)
With the rather long and illustrious history of our club, it’s tough to accept at times that what’s happening now may be filed under the category of “Best ever.” Some parts are easy: Last year’s point total was the best ever for Liverpool in the top division, for example. Some are questionable:
I mean, yeah, that’s cool and you can see four other LFC managers right there on the list that Klopp has “beaten” with this stat. But it’s good to remember that football didn’t start in England with the advent of the Premier League, too. (Oh, also, that number should now read 92/150.) But we’re also looking at a club record 15 straight wins in the top division, no matter what they called it. And a club record 7 straight away wins. And being the first club to win their opening 6 games in successive seasons (although that one is a little too basebally for me: “Against left-handed pitchers in the last three innings in games played on a Wednesday between 75 and 85 F, he hits .453!”) I was saying last season before the second leg against Barcelona that we might be looking at our best team ever that would be coming out of the season with nothing to show for it in terms of silverware. (Oops…) This is that same side, but actually improved by the return of Ox and by the increased comfort level of last year’s additions, like Fabinho. So it’s not that much of a stretch to think that we may be looking at the best team in the 127-year existence of Liverpool Football Club. Thinking that makes me want to hedge, because I remember the sides from the late 70s and the late 80s and, man, those teams were ruthless. But, as Lee Dixon is so fond of pointing out whenever he, Martin Tyler, and Graeme Le Saux are on the commentary, there’s an instinct and an awareness on this team that simply makes it function better than others, regardless of talent. They know each other. They like playing together. And they’re winning. All we have to do is sit back and enjoy it. (Well, that and show up at Magee’s to cheer them on.)
Martin Tyler said it was a “scrappy” performance. That’s not exactly the word that I’d use. I was thinking more “sloppy” in the second half. Don’t get me wrong: We won the game and there were some excellent performances on our side. But we also surrendered the initiative to Chelsea after the first 10 minutes of the second half and were kind of on the back foot from that point forward. These things happen. It’s what commentators like to refer to as “grinding out wins”, an ability for which they lauded Liverpool last season that they insisted we lacked in prior seasons. There’s also no doubt that Chelsea, as young as they are, are still a really talented side. Just watching N’Golo Kante’s remarkable goal in the second half is proof enough of that; not to mention how Marcus Alonso became an appreciated member of their squad again for bombing in a dozen crosses from the left, while we seemed unable to take advantage of his usual notorious defensive lapses. What strikes me, too, is how Willian is still such an important member of their team. No one else is as good as he is at getting into good positions and then making something happen out of them. That used to be Hazard’s job but, alas, he left to be heckled by Real Madrid fans. Pour one out.
As for those excellent performances, one of the highlights (again) was Fabinho:
Dude is proving to be exactly what we needed in the same way Virgil and Alisson have been. Gini and Hendo CAN play the 6. Fabinho IS our 6. That should in no way prevent Jürgen from playing Lallana there against MK Dons on Wednesday.
But another highlight was and has been Joel Matip:
It was interesting to hear from more than one Barca fan after the second leg last season that they felt that Matip had been our man-of-the-match. I thought he earned that title for this game, too, since he was the one absorbing a lot of those thrusts down the left side; at one point, using his head to clear after a corner no less than three times in succession. He’s been a rock and a great pairing with Virg. That should in no way prevent Jürgen from playing Gomez there against MK Dons on Wednesday.
Adrián continued his excellent run between the sticks. His save on Tammy Abraham’s rush in the first half was key to preserving the momentum we had at the time. West Ham fans are probably shaking their heads at having let him go by now, although they have another excellent keeper in Fabianski (who absolutely saved them in an awful match vs the Villans last Monday.) That should in no way prevent Jürgen from playing Kelleher there against MK Dons on Wednesday (or, hey, even Alisson if he’s ready to come back.)
The only slight downside in the aftermath of the game was the report that Mané has picked up a slight injury to his thigh which bears further scrutiny. This should highly encourage Jürgen to play Shaqiri in that left wing slot against MK Dons on Wednesday.
Are you sensing a theme here? Yes, our next game is in the stupid League Cup (I don’t do sponsors) against League One side, MK Dons. (Apologies to Wimbledon fans: Yes, they stole your club. Yes, the Football League signed off on it. Yes, we still have to acknowledge their existence and, y’know, play them.) This is a perfect opportunity to a) rest as many starters as possible and b) get the regular subs some real game time. Shaqiri has already mentioned a couple times how disappointed he is in not being able to get on the field more regularly. Getting Brewster some regular time has been part of Klopp’s plan for a while and part of the reason he was willing to let Sturridge go. Plus, Ox, Gomez, Lovren, and others could all use some real playing experience this season to prepare for the heavy months coming up. Practice is great, but there ain’t nothing like actual games to keep your mind in the right frame.
Oh, we’re back to this again. So… VAR. I’ve touched on this a couple times already this season; the most recent of them being Tuesday when UEFA’s incompetent employment of it possibly cost us a point against Napoli. I’ve also mentioned that the EPL’s execution of the system seems more likely aimed at one meaning of that word (i.e. killing it) than the other (using it properly.) One of the more frequent complaints is how it “interrupts the flow of the game.” I don’t really care about that. Most of said interruptions happen after goals are scored, in which we’re already waiting for people to celebrate, to see a half-dozen replays, and for the ball to be centered and kicked off again. The fact that it might take another 20 or 30 seconds to complete the post-goal circumstances is irrelevant to me.
What DOES irritate me is that they’re using it less to correct obvious errors (like, say, someone diving in the box) and more to adjudicate the finest of margins on offside calls, which then bleeds over into general disdain for the system when they do, in fact, get the call right. Today was a fine example: Mount was offside, no matter how you look at it. But this one…
Hm. Yeah. I’m not buying it. You can look at the picture of Mount and see a full foot offside. No human can tell that Heung-min Son is offside, not least because you can’t tell exactly when the ball left Sissoko’s foot in that situation. If you’re starting to involve tenths of a second, then we’ve carried this a bit too far. Lineker is right about this one:
- The FIFA awards are tomorrow. Virg is up against the same usual suspects (Messi, Ronaldo) as for the UEFA best men’s player; Alisson is up against Ederson and ter Stegen for keeper; and Klopp is up against Pep and Poch for best manager. The only interesting note is that all three of the latter are managers of English sides.
- LFC have scored 34 goals in the EPL from set pieces since the beginning of last season. That’s at least 7 more than any other side. Opta started announcing that last season and it struck me as strange because last season it seemed like our set pieces weren’t that great. Whatevs.
- Pour another one out for Watford. They, uh, got the backlash from what Norwich did last weekend. Even this early in the season, having already sacked a manager, I’m feeling relatively comfortable in saying that the Hornets are going down.
Bob of the week.
So, yeah, next is the Dons. After that, we go to Sheffield and experience the side that beat the Bitters, 2-0, with only one shot on target. Good times.