The multiverse concept has been around for a long time. In fact, Greek Atomism theory in ancient times speculated that the collision of atoms created parallel universes. Erwin Schrödinger (of cat fame) began seriously discussing the concept among theoretical physicists in the 1950s, but it first came to popular usage in DC Comics, when they introduced “Earth-2”, inhabited by all their Golden Age/WW2-era heroes in order to hold on to the copyrights for many of them. That was subsequently followed by Earth-3, Earth-Prime, Earth-A, B, C, D, Quiche Lorraine, and a hundred others. These were all subsequently destroyed in the 1980s Crisis on Infinite Earths but then they came back again because, you know, infinite earths (and because, again, DC was desperate to hold on to the copyright for many of their characters. It’s always about the money…) But it’s a concept that has become a lot more prominent in all kinds of SF/fantasy storytelling, well beyond the comic world, in the past 30 years, such that terms like “metaverse” (first introduced by writer Neal Stephenson in his brilliant Snow Crash in 1992) have achieved relatively common usage and the idea that there may be parallel universes where events are quite different is no stranger to all kinds of writing including, y’know, nominal sports columns. (Full confession: I used to run a comic studio with a friend of mine, so I have a history (maybe even many histories!) with this stuff.)
Today’s match was a nice example of how parallel universes could exist all on their own with even the most minor of tweaks, as it’s possible to look at the game as a carbon copy (ancient term; Google it, kids!) with Liverpool once again performing poorly in the first half, only to make it a real game in the second, and as a mirror image, with Man City taking the lead twice, only to be equalized twice by the Reds, which is the converse of what happened in October. Both games also had Kevin De Bruyne goals from outside the box that deflected off of Joel Matip. They also both had big chances late for the home side to take the win (Fabinho at Anfield, Riyah Mahrez today.) In the end, one could suggest that, despite those slight changes, the end result was the same, which is likely how it would turn out in 99% of the metaversal variations on most events of this nature. There’s no denying that these are the two best teams in England and likely Europe, with only Bayern Munich able to make an argument to be in the picture, which means that their two clashes resulting in 2-2 draws is somewhere in the vicinity of appropriate/poetic/inevitable/deterministic/pickyourlabel. Of course, with a slightly larger nudge in the cosmic firmament, there is a parallel universe out there where we’re dominating England and Europe like we were in the 1980s. That’s the one where we don’t have to compete with the sportswashing project of a petrostate who can bring on the most expensive player in English football history for the last 7 minutes of the most important match of the season. But this is the universe we’re in, so we might as well try to make the best of it.
On that note, it’s morbidly interesting to note the unusual number of Liverpool fans on the Interwebs who are determined to not be happy with any result that somehow isn’t Liverpool “winning” every transfer window and every match, 10-0. These are the ones now bemoaning the fact that we “should” have been down 3 or 4 at the half, rather than just 1. They’re also the ones who don’t apparently understand the “expected” part of xG. Just FYI: for all of City’s attacking overload in the first half, the xG on most models is somewhere around 1.1/1.2 – 1.22/1.3 in Liverpool’s favor. So, the parallel universe in which they scored 4 in the first half alone is the one that would’ve been radically out of tune with the way that the rest of reality comports itself. Of course, they’re also the “fans” that seem to have no actual connection to the definition of that term whatsoever, so maybe they’re just acting out their own personal melodrama that makes them feel better about themselves somehow…? Could that be a slice of the multiverse? It sure could. It’s just not one I’d prefer to inhabit. Bottom line, it was a great match, played by the two best teams in the world (as has been gushed by the neutral hordes on Reddit in the past few hours) and that’s enough to shake the cosmos for now. We play them again at 10:30 EST on Saturday.
Manchester City 2 – 2 Liverpool
On the one hand, that was a very Man City game. They limited the number of shots that Ederson faced (6 is a season low for us) and did so by controlling the middle third, which limited the number of attacks we were able to launch. They controlled the middle of the pitch because of both the talent that they have there (Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva) and because our normally rock-steady #6, Fabinho, had what might’ve been his worst game of the season. He was constantly under pressure, didn’t respond especially well to it, and didn’t have a ton of help from Thiago Alcãntara and Captain Jordan Henderson; both of whom were attempting their usual practice of trying to move the ball up the field. Even when Hendo switched back and started dropping in a lot more, Fabinho was still having issues. I was hoping that a direct swap of Roberto Firmino for Diogo Jota might’ve been in the cards to alleviate that, but Jürgen instead decided to bring in Luis Diaz for Diogo in an effort to put more pressure on City’s defense, since we were the ones under pressure to get the win (and still are.) Obviously, Jürgen and Pep Lijnders know a helluva lot more than I do, so the switches made probably spoke to something else that they saw, with the assumption that there was no real solution to Fab’s problems other than: “Play better! Against Man City!” Good luck with that.
That desperation to improve in the midfield also led to the return of Bad Thiago. Not that he played poorly, which was obviously not the case to anyone with eyes, but that he started powering in on tackles with yellow card intensity like he used to do last year when he was still adjusting to the pace of the Premier League (i.e. it’s faster here than against Bayern’s academy teams!) There’s an argument that he could’ve been sent off for the second one on De Bruyne… if he hadn’t been pulled back from reaching the ball (Multiverse things!) in the first place. This, too, was similar to the situation with James Milner, Robot Warrior in October, albeit far less obvious. What was also less obvious was the offensive production for both Mo Salah
and Sadio Mané
It’s not as if either of them played poorly, because they didn’t. It also has to be noted again (for some reason) that this was a match against Man City, whose entire game is predicated on restricting opposing offenses so that their not-quite-as-good-as-Alisson Becker goalkeeper isn’t brought under any serious pressure if they can help it. It’s also fair to bring up the fact that they still performed as well as they did, despite fasting for Ramadan, which will have an effect even on the bodies of supremely-tuned athletes. Diogo Jota also made a great contribution
before being subbed off for Luis. So, yes, despite the first time we’ve seen a Caley graphic that looks like we were one of our opponents, the offensive third saw solid production, albeit less than we’re used to. This was the first time this season that City had taken the lead and not gotten full points from the match. It was also the first time we’ve trailed at the half all season. And, yes, the defense was fine, as well, despite giving up two goals to one of the finest offensive machines in world football (who, uh, still haven’t scored as many as we have; GD could still be a factor!) A lot of the time, we don’t even have to play defense:
Virgil Van Dijk can just… be. It’s like Schrödinger’s cat, except you know he’s always alive. He’s something of a universal constant, even in multiples of them. That said, he did pick up only his third yellow card of the season because it’s tough to stay with those guys that we’re, y’know, competing for the title with. (We are also, once again, in the lead for the PL’s Fair Play award, closely contested by (of course) Man City…)
Speaking of defensive offense or offensive defense, Trent Alexander-Arnold has now racked up 17 assists on the season, 12 of them in the PL, which puts him one off his own record for assists by a defender. That total also gives him more assists in a single season than another famous Scouser, one Steven George Gerrard, ever accumulated.
So, yeah, tons o’ fun, even if teeth-grittingly static when it comes to the table. Seven games left. We’ll just have to see what happens. Meanwhile, we’re back in Champions League action with the second leg against Benfica at Anfield on Wednesday and then Wembley on Saturday against some guys who probably won’t even show up.