That title sounds an awful lot like what would be above a retrospective on the season and, certainly, we’ll get to that when this one is fully in the books. But sometimes it’s a proper thing to do when you’re in the midst of the moment; when everything is still happening around you and you have to remember to appreciate what’s happening right then and there and not when it’s been gilded by the glittering haze of memory. As many have pointed out on Twitter, Jürgen Klopp is the first Liverpool manager to win all four of the major trophies on offer to the club: European Cup, FA Cup, League Cup, and top division title. That seems mildly absurd when you consider what the club was doing under Bob Paisley, but Bob actually never managed to win the FA Cup in his almost-decade of leading the club. Similarly to Jürgen, Trent Alexander-Arnold has managed to win every major trophy out there; the four listed above, plus the UEFA SuperCup and the Club World Cup, by the tender age of 23. Of course, he’s done all of that while playing under the best manager in the world, who has genuinely returned us to “the glory days” and who still might be able to pull off something unprecedented in English football history.
That’s what I mean when I talk about appreciating the moment. It’s like Colonel Sanders said in Spaceballs: “Everything that happens now is happening now.” We should appreciate it, win or loss. Of course, it’s that much better when you win, as losers-of-three-straight-FA-Cup-finals Chelsea could probably tell you. But it’s also about appreciating the performance of this team, instead of getting hung up on what “should” happen. When Trent made an excellent tackle in the box against Christian Pulisic, I let loose with my usual refrain: “TRENT CAN’T DEFEND!!!” Someone leaned over to our table and muttered: “It’s Pulisic. He doesn’t take much defending.” Um, well, he was charging through the middle of the box and Trent made a tackle that took the ball off him without touching him. At that point, it doesn’t really matter who he is or how difficult he is to defend. It was a great play and you can either support the idiotic memes about Trent’s ability, which every statistical (and visual) analysis regularly refutes, or you can sit there and get pissy about who the opposition was and whether it was actually a superior play. Is there some higher level that all Liverpool players should be aspiring to while they’re reaching the limit of every competition this season and often playing other top 10 clubs in Europe in order to achieve that (both Chelsea and Real Madrid are on that list)? Or can we just appreciate that this is among the best- if not the best -squads that Liverpool has had in its 130-year history and they’re leaving their mark on that history as we watch?
Sure, every time we’re in a big final, the camera is going to stop on King Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush as they watch from the stands at what their club is doing out on the pitch. And, yes, both of them won multiples of those aforementioned trophies during their lengthy careers. But they also did so in a different era, when they didn’t have to compete with clubs backed by petrostates, and when players were locked to clubs for the length of their contracts (and often beyond.) Change happened more slowly back then and when you were on top, it was often possible to stay that way for some time (kinda like Bayern Munich, except less pathetic on the part of the rest of the league.) This group of players is still pretty young and have begun to kick into dominance gear and they have the best manager in the world to oversee that dominance for the next four years, at least. The Reds are going to give us the maximum possible amount of football that they can give this season (one upside of the World Cup not being this summer is that all of them will be able to take a real vacation…) and they’re doing so while winning trophies, which is the best possible world for a football fan. If you can’t stop and appreciate that while it’s happening, then the only thing I can suggest is that you reexamine just why it is you like watching the game and following Liverpool in the first place.
Jürgen said recently that he’d been approached by Bayern a few times and he could have won more titles in his life. He said he’d always turned them down because “the world is not full of winners. The world is full of triers, hopefully. And I try and sometimes I win with other people together. I am happy with that.” Our manager is someone who finds the joy in the effort. It’s hard to do that as a sports fan sometimes because you want your team to win every game they play. But the point is to enjoy it while they’re playing to win and when they do so, even if they had to go to penalties again or even if you think that if they were perfect machines they would’ve been winning 3-0 in the first half or even if you think, as I do, that the FA Cup is really kind of a minor trophy in the grand scheme of modern football. It’s still a trophy. They still hand out medals for it. We still have to update the wall of champions. And everyone who’s a Reds fan will still remember it and occasionally think back to when it was happening and think: “Yeah. That was a great time.” It’s a great time right now. Don’t let it go by without appreciating it.
Chelsea 0(5) – 0(6) Liverpool
Yes, Chelsea were technically the home side. No, I don’t know why they chose to wear the road yellows, especially when their home kit is the perfect match for ours (blues vs reds.) Most of the time, aesthetics don’t matter in a game like this, but when you’re playing the most glorified match in all of English football, you’d think that they would. Chelsea came out in their usual 3-4-3, but with Reece James in one of the wingback slots, with Trevor Chalabah behind him. They also had the services of supposedly-injured Mateo Kovacic in the middle with Jorginho and also supposedly-injured N’golo Kanté off the bench. Players go the extra mile/kilometer when a trophy is on the line. Newly-reinstated “final piece of the puzzle” Romelu Lukaku was the target man up front and, despite all of those changes, large and small, the game played out like pretty much like all of the other three matches we’ve had with the Blues this season: a flurry of pressure by us in the opening period, then settling to a constant struggle in the middle that makes it difficult to sustain that early pressure which really should have amounted to a couple goals. In four matches with them this season, we haven’t been able to extract a win in 90 minutes. Just like in the League Cup, we had to go to the increasingly-useless extra time (Namesake!) and finally penalties to cap off the day.
As something of a tangent, I say “increasingly-useless” because it really does feel like the extra periods are becoming tits-on-a-hog, in that they once seemed to serve a purpose, but now really don’t. You have a bunch of players, the majority of whom have played a full game and are now being asked to play another third of one. Most of them can’t really play effectively and the rest are just trying not to make the one mistake that would send the opposition into complete bus-parking mode (assuming that that’s not how we got here in he first place.) Maybe it’s time to consider alternatives, like how the NHL handles their overtime with a 4v4 matchup? Just something to think about.
And, of course, the reason I’ve already mentioned Trent twice is because he had another masterful performance today in proving just how lucky we are to have the Scouser in our team. There were a couple posters on r/soccer suggesting that he should be moved to midfield because he’s too good to have at RB. No, thanks. We’re perfectly happy with him redefining the position right where he is. Besides, he spends more time than ever moving into midfield these days on both offense and defense, so it’s not like he doesn’t end up effectively contributing in that role in most of the matches in which he plays. Totaalvoetbal, yo. And speaking of complete players:
Crushing it. Jürgen couldn’t stop giggling about the performance that Luís put in. He could’ve said the same thing about the half-season that he’s given us. This will be the third winners’ medal that he’s picked up, considering that he has one on the way for Porto’s win in the Primeira Liga, as well. But let’s not forget the key man in that penalty shootout.
Something I frequently say about Alisson Becker is that he’s the best goalkeeper in the world. Another thing I frequently say about him is that the one minor weakness in his game is penalty kicks. Thankfully, he doesn’t face them that often (we currently have the longest gap in the Premier League since we last had one awarded against us) but it’s something to be mindful of. But he not only had Cesar Azpilicueta’s shot covered if it hadn’t bounced off the post, but also had the direction right on more than one of Chelsea’s other shots and got his hand in front of Mason Mount’s to eventually allow Kostas Tsimikas to get us the win. A good keeper is something you pay big money for because you know they’ll last longer than outfield players and can be hugely important in securing points and goal difference margin (something that’s casually of interest at the moment.) Alisson has been worth every penny. On a trivia note, it also means that all of our keepers in rotation (Alisson, Caoimhin Kelleher, and Adrián) have won penalty shootouts against Chelsea.
We get to go to the beach on Tuesday! Except, not really. It’s just Southampton. Pending City’s result tomorrow against the Hammers (I wrote something recently that vaguely involved hammers, for the film-inclined among you), it could mean absolutely nothing or it could mean we have to score an assload of goals against them (and, uh, win) in order to stay in the goal difference race next Sunday. My hopes are not high. Meanwhile, let’s follow James Milner, Robot Warrior’s advice and never, ever get bored of this: