There’s a concept that’s embedded in the culture, now that nerd culture and regular culture have kind of flowed together (see: Game of Thrones and innumerable Marvel movies.) It’s the concept known as: the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Douglas Adams started it with his radio series that then became a series of novels, beginning with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. When Arthur Dent, last citizen of Earth, finds the computer that was designed to provide the answer to life, the universe, and everything, the computer gives the answer simply as “42.” No one really knows what that means and the joke should be obvious. But, as Liverpool fans, we have now confronted that unknowable answer and it should be equally obvious that our answer to life, the universe, and everything is “2-1”; because that may be the score by which we win the rest of our games for the rest of the season (and perhaps all recorded time.)
There’s a tendency that has kind of snuck into the Liverpool identity that things always have to be more difficult than they seemingly should be. I wrote about it a couple days ago during the irritating draw with Napoli, The end of this game today was no different. Despite having multiple opportunities to extend the lead, we weren’t able to finish and, once Alisson made the unfortunate decision to keep playing keeper 40 yards past his line, we were reduced to bringing on the barely ready Adrián and defending with 10 men. That really should have been avoided. I don’t know if Alisson’s desire for a clean sheet would have still dropped us into similar circumstances, but I have a feeling he would have felt a lot more comfortable being dinked by Brighton if the goal advantage was 3 or 4, rather than 2.
Of course, a 2 goal lead is still pretty comfortable, except in those situations where you go down to 10 men and your lead official completely ignores/forgets the rules of the game. That’s generally not one of the qualities you’d expect out of your lead official. Blindness? Sure. Uncertainty? Of course. Inability to keep up with modern players? Without question. But outright abandoning of the rules is something else again.
But, yeah, whatever. Still 3 points, right? 14 games, 40 points, even if fully half of them have been by that same universal answer on the scoreline, is something to stop and marvel at. Something else that comes along with life and everything is the roller coaster that brings you ups and downs and, to date, we really haven’t had very many downs, so it’s difficult to sit here and curse the cosmic injustice of it all. After all, we could’ve been flattened for an intergalactic exit ramp. Or be Everton. So, chin up, yo.
The very large finger in the Dijk. Stand and witness one of the most deserved man-of-the-match honors ever given. Two towering headers into the net and several retrievals/clearances/blocks in our final third are why we’re walking away from this game with 3 points, rather than 1 or 0. Those headers were on the end of two more assists from Trent, which ties him with Robertson at 5 apiece in the PL this season. Considering all of the size that Brighton have, it’s kind of stunning that Virg was able to find such open space, once just by jumping higher than anyone else, and the second time by leaving his man in the dust as he charged the six-yard box. But that’s why he’s our #4 (Watch him defend… And we watch him score!)
Minor shuffle. With Fabinho out for… sigh… what they’re saying is at least 4 and possibly 8 weeks, my call was putting Gini back at the 6. Klopp decided to go with the captain, instead, while giving Ox the start in Hendo’s usual spot. As noted before, the problem with that is that Ox doesn’t cover the gaps in the same way that Gini and Hendo do and he’s also not as adept at ball retention as they are (Gini’s method being to maintain it in a forest of legs and Hendo using his great field awareness to get it to someone else ASAP.) Ox is an attacking mid, full stop. That, of course, means he’s also great at furthering the attack, since neither of the other two have his speed and intensity on the ball. So, ya got yer pros and cons. It was notable that Klopp withdrew Ox on the red card and left Gini and Hendo on, likely because we were in a more precarious position than the gaffer wanted and he knew playing with 10 means bunkering, which we proceeded to do. Granted, the next few league games other than the Bitters are where this kind of exploration should take place; to see if Ox can handle the role that Klopp wants him to play. Similarly, if Keita could ever get off the disabled list and play, we might test out that theory, too.
FFS. Like I said, it’s one thing for the lead official to have the typical failings associated with EPL officials these days, but to outright ignore one of the rules is really a step beyond. Most people on Twitter were gnashing their teeth about Atkinson having refused Adrián the “gentleman’s agreement” of getting his wall set up before the ball being put into play, especially given that the keeper had just come on the field without any kind of warm up (since keepers don’t usually get those.) But the real problem is this:
Where three or more defending team players form a ‘wall’, all attacking team players must remain at least 1 m (1 yd) from the ‘wall’ until the ball is in play.
Take a look at the situation here and you can see 3 or 4 Brighton players within a meter of said wall. Some of Atkinson you just have to chalk up to: “That’s how he calls the game.” Take Mané’s run down the sideline just before the half, where he took three fouls and somehow managed to stay on his feet to put the ball in the box for a hopeful effort at another goal. Atkinson didn’t blow the whistle or signal for continuation and Mané didn’t fall, so no problem, right? It will often take something truly spectacular (like, say, Stevie G stamping on Ander Herrera…) for Atkinson to wake up and decide to rein in the game a little bit. But this is an actual rule of the actual game. More good news: Atkinson will be the VAR official for the derby on Wednesday. Yay.
Grinding again. On a personal note, I try to never miss a game that LFC plays. I’m enough of a fan(atic) that I even watch the U23s and U19s occasionally on LFCTV. I, uh, also watch a fair amount of other EPL games, Bundesliga, Serie A, and as much of the CL as I can see. Oh, occasionally some Championship matches, too. You might say that I watch a lot of football. But what I’ve historically taken time out to do is also watch Liverpool’s games a second time, just to examine formations or individual players or sometimes just because the games were fun and it’s still fun to watch them again. Lately, that hasn’t been the case. I’ve found myself getting so frustrated with the performances that I’m just not interested in watching this team slog through another 2-1 over X mid-table team. Maybe that means I’m just watching too much football. I’d like to think so, rather than thinking that I’m that disappointed in what is a continuing series of victories (40 points from 14 games! Leading our CL group! The insanity that was more goals than successful penalties against Arsenal!)
However, that, like everything else, pales into insignificance from the news on the Hillsborough families front this week. It’s unfortunate that justice delayed is still justice denied and it was great to hear the Anfield crowd continue the chant through the first 10 minutes of the game. Priorities.
But, whatever. That’s 31 in a row undefeated, the longest run for Liverpool in the top flight since 1988. The Bitters are Wednesday. I’d really like to settle my frustration by getting ahead of the answer number and putting the stake in Marco Silva sometime in the first half. Let’s do this.