I’ve been watching this stupid game for a long time, so I’ve picked up a couple phrases from various British commentators and sources over the years. One of them that I still use quite regularly is “There it is.” It’s basically just a way to affirm and/or resign oneself to a situation. When I say that circumstances have conspired to leave most of the top clubs with no choice but to qualify for the Champions League revenue to stay competitive, well, there it is. When I say that Roberto Firmino is still one of the best players on this squad and has been proving it for the past month-and-a-half while everyone else sleepwalks through matches, well, there it is. A euphemism for that phrase by some murky English origin is: “Bob’s your uncle.” When I say that the first half today made it look like we were were never going to get past whatever malady has affected the club since the Community Shield game, a reasonable response would’ve been: “Bob’s your uncle.” (I tend to prefer the more “common man”-sounding and -looking “yer” when writing it), even if that would be affirming something a bit more negative than that phrase is usually uttered for. It probably helps that I’m also a diehard Shakespeare (Been Macbeth in the Scottish play twice!) and Monty Python fan, too.
For the last couple years, there’s been a certain segment of the Liverpool fanbase that has practically been trying to push Bob out the door in favor of some unknown entity that would somehow easily replace the person that Jürgen has repeatedly labeled “the engine” that drives our system. There would be a magic goalscorer (Rumors of Mbappé!) who would put so many loose balls in the net that it would replace the deft touches and hard-won balls in the middle of the pitch that are Bobby’s trademarks by dint of flashing lights from the scoreboard. But those lights would probably never be as bright as Bob’s glittering smile when he heads in another perfect corner from Kostas Tsimikas or meets a flawless cross from Joe Gomez which was right where Bob pointed for him to put it or when he does a Rabona to get a pass slightly behind him right into the path of Darwin Nuñez. And, of course, we already have that goalscorer on this squad. His name is Mohamed Salah, who scored the fastest hat trick in the history of the Champions League (6 minutes, 12 seconds) after coming on as a substitute. He was assisted on all three of those goals by Diogo Jota, who had also come on as a sub five minutes after Mo; the first time anyone has assisted all three goals of a hat trick in the CL since 2012 and the first time a Liverpool player has done that since Stan Collymore did it for God in 1995.
How often does the person who scores a hat trick (or even the person who puts up a hat trick of assists) not win the MotM? Well, when the reason they were able to come on and dominate against a retreating opponent is because one man held the team up in the first half and triggered the avalanche that swept away the second. I don’t hesitate to call myself a fan of Bobby Firmino. I will sing his praises even when he’s not performing as Bobby Dazzler, since I know what he can do, even when he’s not always doing it. When someone asked a few years ago whom I would name as my favorite player from each “era” of the club that I’d seen, my answer was easy: “Kenny, Barnesy, Stevie, Bobby. And a fifth one left unnamed somewhere in there.” (Maybe Rushie? Probably Rushie.) Bob defines the Klopp Era for me at Liverpool Football Club. As fond as I am of so many players on this squad and some that have departed it (love you, Sadio), the constant for me has been our Number 9 who so often just seems to make everything work. He did it tonight, even while being partially overshadowed by the record-setting offense of the second half. But he was the one that got us there. He’s still the engine that drives us forward. He’s what makes the magic happen. Bob’s yer uncle.
Rangers 1 – 7 Liverpool
Caley’s tagline for this tweet was: “Team variance strikes again.” He’s so right. (Stupid chaos game…) The numbers are mildly outrageous. That’s 7 goals from an xG of 2.6 which means that our finishing was pristine in this match, which is one of the things that we’ve had some uncertainty with so far this season but which has lately kicked on into the sublime. Bob is scoring a goal every 88 minutes, Darwin every 125, Mo every 132, and Luís Diaz every 243. Oh, and Diogo now has 5 assists in 4 matches. If we could just stop giving away stupid goals (see: almost every first half this season), we’d have been in prime position in the league. Aside from Mo’s being the fastest hat trick in CL history, it was also the most efficient, as it only took him 9 touches to score those three goals; the best since Opta was first able to track that data in 2003-04. 6 of those 9 touches were inside the box, lending more weight to the argument that pushing Mo too far from the box to create space for Darwin may not be the best of offensive approaches. You could see the relative disinterest on Mo’s face after his first two, as it came against an opponent that already knew they were defeated and probably because he’s been frustrated with the change in his role this season. Might be time to rethink that. But one part of the offense has still been working.
Those numbers also include 8 final third entries (aka passes into the offensive zone), 6 ground duels won and .43 xG for the match. No one has assisted more goals in the CL for Liverpool than Bobby Firmino, with 12, bringing him level with one Steven Gerrard and the everpresent James Milner, Robot Warrior. For a brief period tonight, he had also had more multi-goal matches for the club in the CL than anyone else except one player…
as “only Mohamed Salah” had as many and, of course, now has one more. The ease with which he controlled the ball probably had something to do with his muted celebrations. The young Rangers defenders were making the cardinal mistake that anyone who’s seen anything of Mo in the past six years knows not to do: letting him get the ball on his left foot. That’s on top of giving him way too much space to operate. I haven’t watched the Scottish Premier League in a long time, so I don’t know if officiating has become much more strict in the box (I highly doubt it) but they were acting like they were afraid to make a serious tackle when he picked up the ball and he made them pay for it. If EPL officials were actually competent, his already outrageous scoring records might be that much more insane. And there was more.
Harvey Elliott created all kinds of action down that right side even before Mo came into the game and shook everyone up. Both of the pre-Mo goals in the second half were begun or came through Harvey on their way up the field. A great moment was the nice head pass he made to get the ball to Jomez on the touchline so he could bring it forward and place it exactly where Bob was pointing for it to be delivered. Harvey also handled the ball well and should be one of the people we can point to when the TWWs start wailing about the lack of midfield options again.
So, yeah, that was fun in the second half. Before that, I was thinking we were fully in the throes of “Klopp’s last season at Dortmund.” Maybe this is the jolt that makes us actually competitive on Sunday against the Manchester Sportswashing Front, before hopefully securing the CL knockout rounds next week at Ajax.