We’ve been talking about expectations a lot lately. There are a lot of clubs that would kill for a season like we’re having, with the chance to play in European tournaments next year. Most of us, of course, look at it only as a disappointment, given the performances that have become routine since Jürgen Klopp arrived on Merseyside. Part of those overall performances has been equally routine domination of many of the sides in the Premier League. That’s something else that this squad has failed to live up to this season, but one of those sides most reliably dominated in the last seven years is Leicester City. Indeed, what many consider to be the finest performance of this team during Jürgen’s tenure was against Leicester in the Boxing Day Massacre when, having just returned from winning the Club World Cup in Qatar, we demolished the Foxes, 4-0, at the King Power. That was when they were in second place, a point ahead of Man City. Yesterday, they were in 19th place and staring down the thousand yards toward relegation for the first time since their return to the top flight in 2014. That ending would leave them as only the second club in the Premier League era to have won the title only to later be relegated. But it’s clubs in their current position that have regularly been the most difficult tasks for Liverpool this season, turning what should be a casual shrug into the bleak feeling of astonished dismay. Thankfully, yesterday was not one of those moments, but was instead symbolized by the image above which was the best moment of the entire sequence involving Trent Alexander-Arnold’s spectacular goal.
From the moment the ball was first kicked, this felt like the old Liverpool. That’s something else I’ve been saying often in the last few weeks. Clearly, the squad has turned a corner. It might have come too late to get us back into the Champions League next season, which will be a hard pill to swallow for all of us, but at least signifies that we’ve sorted out some of the issues and done so even before The Great Rebuild that’s supposed to be coming this summer. The main target of criticism this year has been the midfield and how it was either too young or too old and clearly incompetent, regardless of age. That’s funny, of course, because before we went on this seven-game tear, our second-best player of the season (after Alisson Becker) was Stefan Bajčetić, a midfielder. For the run of the last seven games, I’d argue that our two best players have been Trent and Curtis Jones, a pseudo-midfielder and an actual midfielder. One of the other best young talents in the clubhouse is Harvey Elliott, a midfielder. In the second half of the season, all of these guys have been performing. In fact, Curtis and Trent are the first pair of Scousers to score in the same PL match for Liverpool since two guys named Robbie Fowler and Steven Gerrard in 2007 against Sheffield United. Am I saying that both of our young guys are as good as God and Fookin’ ‘Ard Steven Gerrard? Well, no, not together. But Trent is really close and Curtis has been climbing the ladder quickly in the last couple months. They both have a lot of time ahead of them, though, which is good when it comes to thinking of the future that appears locked into spending money on more midfielders if Fabrizio Romano is to be believed this evening. Also, those two goals made Curtis the first Liverpool midfielder to score twice in the first half in a PL match since Stevie G in 2015, who did so against… Leicester City. History and that whole repeating thing, man.
I take no particular joy in being another step in Leicester’s journey to the abyss, even if their supporters are mostly a bunch of Tories who started right in on the Hillsborough chants as soon as Curtis had scored his first. They were later drowned out by our traveling section singing Bobby Firmino’s song for almost the entirety of the second half and for some time after the match, celebrating the win with the rest of the players and Bob himself, who had traveled with the team, even though he wasn’t going to be playing. That our traveling section could easily- one might say “casually” -drown out their entire fanbase is a measure of just how much belief that this squad has been able to restore in the past few weeks and the confidence that comes with it. Yes, Leicester should be a casual win. It should be a game you can point to on the schedule and say: “That’s three points.” Most of the PL should be that, even sitting as we are in fifth place and having lost no less than eight games on the road this season, plus another at Anfield. Of course, we’re now sitting on a winning streak better than any other team in the league this year except impending champion, Oil City. That’s part of what makes and has made this club different, in the glory years of the 70s and 80s and the glory years of the 2020s. You can say they haven’t been quite as glorious, since we’ve had to deal with another club regularly cheating their way to titles, but consider that James Milner, Robot Warrior was part of his 200th win in 330 appearances for the club yesterday. Only Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish achieved that win mark in fewer appearances, at 328 and 329, respectively. So, yeah, it’s been pretty glorious, even if sometime it felt like it should’ve been more routine. This is a legendary group in this club’s long history and that’s nothing to shrug at.
Leicester City 0 – 3 Liverpool
Look how tiny those boxes are for Curtis’ second and Trent’s goal. That’s a measure of real quality there. As spectacular as Trent’s missile was, we have to give some consideration to Curtis’ control, turn, and finish on that second goal. That takes real skill and it’s nice to see him finally being acknowledged for it after struggling through injuries and some growing pains. It’s also worth pointing out his overall contributions, which haven’t always been obvious in the big picture.
Another thing to emphasize is that total is equal on goals and assists. So it’s not just running up one big number and chipping in a bit on the other side. He’s been exactly what you would hope your #8 would be. The even better thing is that he’s improved both his ball retention and his passing technique by leaps and bounds in the past year. In his academy/U21 days, it was easy for him to just overpower people with his natural talent. Now that he’s been getting regular time on the first team and playing against people in the same talent range, he’s developed his skill at the game to the point where he’s standing out from the crowd that he’s always been contributing to. Speaking of contributions and assists, that was a hat trick of assists for Mo Salah last night, putting him even with Bob at 71 for most assists under Jürgen at the club. It was also his 55th to 57th assist in the league, passing Eric Cantona and putting him only two behind people like Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez (former Leicester City player and now playing for some sportswashing entity.) I think the 55th is the one that really stands out, as that was a killer ball over the box to Curtis. But since we’re talking about how I may assist you…
What else can you say? He had some rough going in the first half of the season, just like the rest of the squad. But since that change in position, he’s been phenomenal. The game has revolved around him. With Captain Jordan Henderson (now 6th in total games as captain in club history and going to be alone in 5th in two weeks) and Mo providing width on that right side and Ibrahima Konaté covering behind, it gives Trent the freedom to roam all over the middle of the pitch, making things like this happen:
Granted, Leicester weren’t trying too hard to disrupt our progression; being much more concerned with getting in front of it and blocking attempts. They weren’t exactly parking the bus, but it was at least a delivery van for much of the match. Trent kept everything moving and often kept it moving through Curtis and Hendo, which is exactly what you want from the forward member of your double pivot. And then, of course, there’s this:
Get some. Got more of a curve and drop on that than Fernando fookin’ Valenzuela. It’s kind of hilarious that he and Mo used the same routine that they executed at Chelsea a couple years back. Jürgen claimed to have told them to run that one again when the spot was placed. Everyone wants to get in on the best act in English football, with an acknowledgment to Ilkay Gundogan’s remarkable goal on Sunday. But that was a one-off. This is consistency. And, yeah, speaking of consistency:
Best keeper in the world. Considering the pressure he’s been under this season, with the number of big chances he’s faced (most in the league(!)), to be only two behind David De Gea for most clean sheets is a testament to what the big man (repeatedly referred to by Martin Tyler during the match as the “jolly green giant”) has been doing this season. Which are, of course, the same things he’s been doing for the last five seasons. You can argue about every other player on the squad in their respective positions, from Mo to Virgil Van Dijk, in terms of best in Europe/the world. But I don’t think there’s any argument about Alisson.
So, yeah, much fun. Win the next two and we can hope that ManU or Newcastle stumble in their next three and hand us a largely undeserved CL slot if you look at the whole season. Otherwise, it’s Thursdays and Sundays for us, having guaranteed ourselves a Europa League slot with this latest win. At the very least, it’s something that Jürgen has never won and we haven’t won since 2001, so there’s that. Meanwhile, one more look at that goal from behind the net:
That dude is right. And another look at the continuing party after the final whistle, as the traveling section kept going with their/our love for one of the greatest players in the modern era of Liverpool Football Club. These last two games are going to be rough.
It’s been massive to have Curtis step into that role as an attacking midfielder. We’ve mostly been lacking when it comes to goal production from the midfield, but not anymore. Now that defenders will have to come up to defend rather than hang back and overplay Mo and crew, it should open up more space for the forwards. I’d love to see ,more through balls when opponents are playing our midfield as goal scoring threats.
Speaking of Mo, he’s really the epitome of Liverpool football right now: brilliant scorer but also quite adept at setting up goals. That pass on Curtis’ first goal was just spectacular. His unselfish play perfectly suits the club.
I remember Klopp’s famous quote:
“Stay here and they will end up building a statue in your honour. Go somewhere else, to Barcelona, to Bayern Munich, to Real Madrid, and you will be just another player. Here you can be something more.”
Seeing that clip of the crowd cheering on Bobby Firmino is a great testament to that quote.
My youngest child has started to get into Liverpool which is fantastic. He’s a goalie and he’s become an Alisson fan. He knows that Alisson is the best keeper in the world, one of his classmates said so. Who am I to argue with that?
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Excellent. Glad to see he’s started young as a Red and at one of the most important positions on the pitch.