I’m not much of a Star Wars fan anymore, but I know my movie lines and the above is the most appropriate that I can think of. Since so many people have been talking about the films in recent days, I figured it’d segue right in there.
I know that I do a lot of “Back in MY day” stuff when I write about Liverpool. Sorry. It’s a bad habit, because this is still my day, just as it is everyone else’s who lines up and calls themselves a Liverpool supporter. But the outcome of a game like the one that was played today- with a matchup between two highly-regarded teams that turns into an utter rout -had a specific term that we used to apply, uh, back in the day. That term was “Fucking beatdown.” It was applied to a couple Michigan-Notre Dame games where the outcome wasn’t in doubt past the first quarter. When Mané almost scored in the first minute of the match tonight, you could see what was about to happen.
This was utter domination from the opening kick. Reporters in Klopp’s press conference asked him if he thought it was the best Liverpool had played this season. He said “No.” He thought we played better against City and Arsenal. I think he was just being modest and/or kind to Leicester. One thing that was similar to the City game was a stretch in the second half when the lead was secure and the Reds proceeded to simply sit on the ball, letting Leicester wear themselves out chasing it. Kasper Schmeichel’s comment after the game was: “We were in it until the ref decided to make himself a hero.” Every player who’s had his ass chapped by an FBD is going to respond with some kind of resistance or he might as well not be a player. But if you’d like to imagine that your team was “in the game” while not having a shot on goal, being outshot overall 15-3, having 2 corners to your opponent’s 8, and being under absolute siege for the first 15 minutes of the second half, during which the ball made it out of Leicester’s zone all of twice… I mean, OK. Have it your way. You were “in the game”… meaning your club’s name appeared on the TV screen that says you were actually participating, despite what everyone could see on the field. Sure. Oh, said domination also meant that your star striker disappeared whenever he reached the box and had less than two dozen touches for the entire game. Guess he was “in the game”, too, if that game was What Do I Have in My Pocket or something like that. (Hosted by your own Joe Gomez!)
This team is now a machine, fully armed and operational. The fact that we’re operating this way without a key part, one of the best DMs in Europe (Fabinho), and with only two functional centerbacks playing every minute of every game, is testament to the rest of the squad, the coaching staff, and the endurance that Klopp has built into them. (On the CB thing, I know that the fact that one of them is Virg is, well, kind of a huge advantage, too.) Another fact is that it could easily have been far worse than a 4-0 beating, with an xG of 3.7-0.2. (Leicester’s xG comparison with LFC after two games this season is: 8.6-0.2 so, really, October’s game wasn’t any better, despite the scoreline.) Yet another fact is that we’re 20 points ahead of 4th-placed Chelsea. Chelsea is 20 points ahead of last-placed Norwich. So, yeah. FBD. [I realize that it’s a poor abbreviation for the term, but you can’t just use FB or everyone thinks ‘football’ or ‘Facebook’ or something.]
The game. Can I just LOL and move on? Sorry. I tweeted at @LiverpoolOffside that we had the Foxes almost literally under siege early in the second half and it was borderline ludicrous to see how well we were recycling the ball in the offensive third of the field. A lot of credit for that effort has to go to this man:
He also had the most touches of any LFC player on the field. He’s basically reorienting the modern game around the right back position. There were people his age who grew up wanting to be Thierry Henry. Kids these days are going to want to grow up to be Trent. Segue:
I have much respect for Henry. I hated him when he was with the Gunners because he was just so good. That’s the way many people are looking at Liverpool, Trent, Bob, Mo, Sadio, Virg, and everyone else right now.
Speaking of everyone else, one has to acknowledge that Trent was the best player on offense tonight, but we can’t overlook the contributions of his targets. That first goal was a spot-on cross from Trent, but Bob hit it perfectly to just put it past Schmeichel at the near post (and if he hadn’t, Salah probably would’ve.) Even more prominently, the third goal was a brilliant pass from Trent, but Firmino’s movement as soon as he passes the ball forward to Milner is excellent. He moves to his left to find the clear space away from the defenders shifting toward Trent and stays right between the lines so he has space even as Leicester’s defense compacts in the box. His first touch expertly settles the ball, which gives him time to see the goal and place it, rather than trying to time an attempt as it came in to him. Just awesome work from Bob and everyone else. Bob’s second was also the 500th goal we’ve scored since Klopp arrived, which made the leap-into-the-arms-of-the-manager celebration kind of appropriate.
Bleach. We’ve struggled to achieve the fabled clean sheets for much of the season, but we’ve now produced them in five of our last six games, including three in a row in the Premier League, conceding just the one goal against Monterrey. I think that’s a credit to Gomez’s return in top form, but it’s also a credit to the ability of the midfield to rotate and keep the same performance, regardless of who’s on the field. Henderson was, once again, excellent at the six, showing up all over the field and dropping pinpoint passes everywhere: 93%, to be specific, and the most completed passes (73) and tackles (4) for LFC before he was subbed off for the robot warrior. (And yet, I still heard some idiot grumbling “Pass forward, Hendo!” at Magee’s…) But equally good was Naby:
and master retainer/recycler Gini Wijnaldum, who was crucial in that period of retaining possession in the offensive third by digging the ball out whenever one of the Lesters interfered with a pass and tossing it to another man in red. In contrast to our defensive improvement, Leicester had only allowed 5 goals at King Power all season until tonight. We’re now first in goal difference (32), goals scored (46), and goals allowed, with only 14 on the season.
Intangibles. Klopp is resolutely dismissing any talk of having the title wrapped up, at least in part because he says (correctly) that people keep posing it as a negative (“No one loses this lead at Christmas!”) and that’s not the way he or his team operate. Graeme LeSaux, for NBC’s coverage, said that LFC has basically become the 4H Club: Hard working, hungry, happy, and humble. That sounds like Klopp, top to bottom, and it’s why Liverpool has returned to being a destination club for players across Europe and why we’re so lucky to have him. Also, in other intangibles, due credit to the LFC fans singing “Fuck the Tories!” in their corner of King Power tonight.
Next time, it’s more canines, as Wolves show up at Anfield. In a weird scheduling quirk, Leicester, Wolverhampton, and Sheffield will all be playing Manchester City followed by Liverpool (Wolves play City tomorrow afternoon.) That has to be mildly traumatic.