It’s often easy to look at things in black-and-white. X thing that happened was good and Y thing that happened was bad and there will be no in-between. Sports fans are as guilty of this as anyone else, so it’s easy for many Reds fans to look at the last two results (1-0 Fulham and 1-0 Brentford) and come away with one of two conclusions: They were both wins and, therefore, both positive or they were both narrower wins than we’d expect and still exemplary of how things have gone awry this season. At this point, I can’t really understand the latter viewpoint, since if we have any chance of playing in Europe next season (at whatever level), we need every point that we can get. In other words, it doesn’t matter how you get the points, as long as you get them. But, by the same token, I can understand the frustration that comes with seeing yet another example of the squad that we expected would still be challenging for the title and every cup we can play for look like it can’t handle a couple of mid-table sides as well as we’d expect; even ones as vastly improved as Fulham or as impressively-run as Brentford. Of course, give that we ended up with a draw against the Cottagers and got run off by the Bees in our first matches with each of them this season, we can at least still cling to the reality that no opposing club has done the double over Liverpool in the Premier League since Jürgen Klopp arrived as manager. That, too, is a form of consistency that has been emblematic of our club for the last seven years.

But it’s easy to fall into that binary mode of thinking because both halves of it tend to be simple: This is either BAD or GOOD and context is not needed. It’s just like the code that both scores resemble, in that the machine language is based on the idea that it’s either one or the other, in sequence: “This is bad” = 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01100001 01100100, while “This is good” = 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01100001 01100100 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100111 01101111 01101111 01100100. The keen-eyed among you will note that there’s more code for the latter. Let’s just assume that that means that there’s more to talk about from the positive perspective and stick with that and not just because even just one more letter of ASCII means a lot more code. As Alisson Becker asserted yesterday, “it was a game we can be proud of.” A lot of people would point to the missed chances for us and the opportunities that Brentford had, but the xG says that it was our best defensive performance of the season (0.2 or less for the Bees) and one of the top 10 for any side in the Premier League this season. It was also Alisson’s 100th clean sheet as a Red, so you can understand that it might stand out to him, considering the pressure that he’s been under this year.

And you can understand why he’d look at most of the recent results as a purely positive development, considering that we’ve won five straight by a 1 goal margin; the first time Liverpool have done that in the PL era. This latest match also perpetuated our streak of 123 league matches undefeated when leading at halftime. Now, with a week off after five matches in 15 days, we can do a bit of reassessment, get some rest, and try to pull out the last three; all of whom have something to fight for, with Aston Villa contending for a European spot and Southampton and Leicester staring down the barrel of relegation. That, too, is part of the binary nature of football, sports, life, and everything around us, even when things can seem to be nothing but gray.


Liverpool 1 – 0 Fulham

Of the two matches, this was the one that was more pro forma. As you can see from the above, Fulham had some chances, with that large circle on the left of the box being the attempt by Carlos Vinicius that was denied by Ali’s big right hand. But there wasn’t a whole lot to speak of in terms of play or officiating (unlike the next match…) and it seemed pretty Standard English Football, decided by what you could call a fairly soft penalty, but one that was still probably justified, given Issa Diop’s attempt to simply block Darwin Núñez’s progress in the box, rather than actually play the ball. It was also the latest in a surge of penalty calls for Liverpool, which just underlines the absurdity of the infrequency with which we get those calls. It’s as if someone at PGMOL saw the stats at the beginning of April that showed us with the most touches in the opposing box of any PL side and yet not being given a penalty in almost a year at that point. We’ve now had four called for us since the Bournemouth match that followed that realization. One thing that has been consistent, however, is the play of Trent Alexander-Arnold in his new role.

That’s an impressive statline in and of itself, but there’s more to that picture, given that Trent had the most shots, completed passes (total and final third), tackles, interceptions, and recoveries of any player on the pitch in the first half against Fulham. Oh, he’s also only been dispossessed once in seven games in this new role. That’s a midfielder that you want playing basically every game. Thankfully, Trent’s emergence in that role has paralleled the return of Curtis Jones to starting form, as the latter was once again excellent against the Cottagers, completing 100% of his passes in the first half and 93% for the match, and generally controlling the flow of play up and down that left side. Suddenly, our midfield issues look a lot less daunting than they did a few weeks ago. No, I’m not saying we don’t need to buy, given Thiago Alcântara’s ongoing injury issues (out for the season now, with hip surgery), the likely departure of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the all-but-confirmed departure of James Milner, Robot Warrior to Brighton, and the questions that have left Captain Jordan Henderson on the bench for the past few matches. That said, even in a sub role, Hendo still has the talent to do stuff like this:

Obviously, you can’t keep people around just for tricks, but I think Hendo still has a lot to give to the squad, even if largely from a bench/training ground role. Whether he’s willing to do that (Millie obviously wasn’t, unfortunately) will be the major question moving forward. There’s no doubt that the team shifts gears, emotionally, when he’s on the pitch which is still a worthwhile thing.


Liverpool 1 – 0 Brentford

Part of that xG disparity was our defensive performance, despite Brentford’s seemingly threatening approaches that often appeared similar to Fulham’s but which usually degenerated to a spot kick, which is something the Bees have excelled at this season but which we’re not normally troubled by. Even Thomas Frank pointed out that it was the best set-piece defending he’s seen this season. The other part was that apparent willingness to fall down whenever anyone breathed on them. Liverpool averages 10.1 fouls whistled on us per PL match. We had 11 called against us in the first half alone yesterday and finished with 19(!) That constant flopping and whistling meant that the ball was actually in play for less than 40 minutes for the entire match and Anthony Taylor awarded a free kick every 83 seconds of that time in play. Remember when I cited our ranking at or near the top of the “ball in play” metrics a week or two ago? Well, we got carded more times for time-wasting yesterday than we have in the entire PL season, too. The card delivered to Alisson for taking 34 seconds over a goal kick was less than the 37 and 42 seconds that Davi Raya took over goal kicks just in this match. So, PL officiating and especially Taylor’s officiating is still a disgrace. Tell me you’re surprised. But Trent was Trent again:

Again, a midfielder par excellence. In fact, NBC pointed out that, since he began playing this new role, Trent is first in assists, chances created, passes in the opposing half, final third entries (passing or carrying), penalty area entries, possession won, and total touches of any player in the Premier League. There are a lot of other clubs’ supporters that try to make excuses or mock us when we refer to Trent as a generational talent, along the lines of someone like Steven Gerrard. Guess they can keep talking.

That was another chance created that Darwin was unfortunately unable to take advantage of and which opposing fans (and some Liverpool ones..) will pillory him for. The Benfica supporters on r/soccer have been consistent in their pleas for patience and their guarantees that he’ll explode in his next season. 15 goals is, uh, already a pretty good return on investment, BTW. Incidentally, that other big chance referred to above was created by Fabinho, with his slick pop pass going into the box to the head of one Virgil Van Dijk, who smartly put it down in front of Mo Salah for the score, rather than trying to score himself. Fabinho is still benefitting massively from Trent’s presence in the middle with him, as it allows him more space and more confidence on both offense and defense, which has contributed to others, as well.

Those 10 clearances are the most by a Red in a single match in three years, which means that Virg was not only in the right spot, but also getting balls funneled to him that he could deal with appropriately. Playing in a three-man backfield has put a bit more pressure on him than he’s used to experiencing, but having a double pivot in front of him is keeping actual crises to less than what we might expect. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Ibrahima Konaté taking the role of covering the wide space on the right, either, since he’s both faster and younger than Virg is, and that kind of defensive prowess extends to everyone on the pitch wearing red. Those 100 clean sheets cited above for Alisson makes him the seventh keeper in LFC’s history to achieve that, among names like Scott, Clemence, Grobelaar, and Reina. But then there’s the offense.

A constant and already a club and league legend, with a few more years still left in him. That one goal also hit a number of landmarks for him, equaling Stevie G’s total of 186 goals for the club, giving him 100 goals at Anfield, scoring in 9 straight home league matches (a club record), hitting 30 goals for the third season in a row, and being the only player in the PL to have at least 25 goal contributions (goals + assists) for the last six seasons. The club put up a great retrospective of Rushie on YouTube the other day and it’s a wonderful reminder of just how good he was. We’re watching someone just as good in Mo right now.

Of course, one of the other major themes yesterday (aside from the officiating) was that a new king was being crowned for the English and all of the pageantry associated with that. The PL insisted that clubs play God Save the King before each match and the response from the Anfield crowd was everything that could have been expected. Jürgen was asked for his opinion beforehand and gave the only answer he could: He didn’t have one. It was the club’s choice and he and the players were doing what the club asked. He’s also German, so didn’t really have an opinion on what was an English exercise since he’s not English… and NEITHER ARE SCOUSERS. So, piss off.

We’re on the road at Leicester next Monday after a much-needed rest. Today is also the anniversary of one of the greatest moments in recent Anfield history, as well, so enjoy.


  1. This certainly feels like a season of transition in the midfield, and I give Klopp credit for realizing that before it was too late. I would have never guessed that TAA would be such a magnificent midfielder, but the Hendo-Thiago led midfield is past its best by date. Just like we needed to make the transition from Bob and Sadio at forward, we needed to inject some youth, speed, and skill into the midfield. Trent and Curtis give us hope for maintaining a CL spot that is so vital to being able to afford talent that will keep us in the CL if not competing with City for another PL title.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think between Trent, Curtis, Harvey, Fabinho, and Stefan, we have a solid basis for moving forward, even if Hendo and Thiago were to retire tomorrow (and, of course, Millie, Ox, and Naby all move on.) In the 4-2-3-1, we can essentially use Cody as another midfielder, as well, so there’s still a ton of talent there. Picking up two more mids and another CB would be enough this summer, I think.


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