You wait all season for a four-goal romp and two come in the same week. Typical.
The opening game against West Ham’s glacial midfield aside, the Reds have been strangely reticent in front of goal this term and it was beginning to get to people. Why I know not.
Last season we were spoilt. Seven goals salvos here, five-goal lead in European Cup semi-finals there. The front three went mad. A lad who most didn’t want came from Arsenal and became the driving force in midfield we’ve missed since Gerrard’s pomp and nearly all fell to our sword. Mo Salah alone almost equalled Ian Rush’s haul of 47 goals in a season in his first season at the club. Achievements like that are rare and it’s wrong to simply assume he can do it again this term. Mind you, if he wants to have a go …
The lack of hammerings have been noted with a frown from some quarters. Brighton came to Anfield in late August and there was some robust pre-match talk of 8-0s. We won by a solitary goal—a beauty too. The same amount of points as any other win, but the same side went back to the south coast with four goals against on the final day of last season so why didn’t we at least do the same again?
What does it matter if we’re joint top of the league?
At halftime yesterday, the BBC’s rolling live text included a tweet from a Red decrying the lack of goals. ‘Sort it, Klopp!’
It’s understandable that people want to be entertained. Football is an expensive game to watch in the flesh after all and who would be happy with a run-of-the-mill 1-0 win when we’re capable of so much more? Only the results-at-any-cost soulless arses of the world.
Hello. My name is Karl and I’m a results-at-any-cost soulless arse.
Yes, I know. Goal difference is key and Man City are webbing people all over the place so we should at least try to keep up. Of course, we should. We should also secure the win first and Jurgen Klopp is plainly seeking that level of priority. Let’s look at the two tables after ten league games.
Liverpool –P10 W4 D4 L2 F17 A16 Pts 16
Context is key here. This run included the usual Mourinho inspired borefest Anfield game against Man Utd and trips to the Etihad and Wembley so no one is expecting thirty points. Liverpool sat in sixth place at that stage while Man City led the table twelve points above the Reds. The reason? Well, draws against Watford, Newcastle and Burnley didn’t help. Teams, you’d think Liverpool could vent full spleen on today.
Today’s table sees Liverpool top with 26 points with three more than at the same stage last season goals and a goal difference of 16. I know which one I’d take.
Incidentally, if you were to drop Liverpool’s first ten league games of last season into the current table, we’d be ninth. Behind ‘crisis club’ Man Utd. That’s how far we’ve come.
If we were to drop our current start into last season’s table … we’d be second! City would be two points ahead! How the hell do you cope with that? Well, not getting webbed 5-0 at the Etihad would be a start, I suppose.
When asked what he was happiest about yesterday, Klopp said ‘the 26 points.’ I love that answer. That’s better than any 5-0 win against any team. 26 points. Eight wins. Two draws. Those draws being against the best two clubs in the country. One point saved from a genius last minute goal in one fixture, one saved by Rihad Mahrez attempting the Goodison crossbar challenge from Anfield in the other. Small margins.
The nearest comparison came in 2008-2009 with Rafa’s best ever side with Torres and Gerrard leading the line. We won eight of our first ten there too and drew the other two. While our draws this year have been against worthy opponents, that 2008 side dropped points against Stoke City and Aston Villa. I was at the Villa game and such was its soporific quality that I needed reviving at halftime.
That side didn’t win the league, of course, but fell due to a trait which is peculiar to this club. In late February and early March, the Reds faced Real Madrid twice, Manchester United and Middlesbrough. Guess which one we lost? Yep.
Add to this home draws against Fulham and West Ham and the old problem was back. Beat the hard teams, the challengers, but fail to break down the teams who should be yielding points.
Jurgen Klopp knows that too so wasn’t overly concerned about that Brighton score or the lack of clinical finishing in Yorkshire last week. Take the points and the performances will come. Well, they came this week as Red Star and Cardiff will testify—two teams who sat back and tried to hold out, but were undone by a superior team who finally turned up the heat once the points were secure.
Klopp is ‘sorting’ it, mate. Look at the table.
Gerard Houllier was criticised for telling the press ‘You take the performance, I’ll take the win’ following yet another turgid performance in the 2003-4 season. That year one of the worst sides in our recent history crawled into the Champions League qualifiers though it was not enough for him to keep his job. No one mentioned that terrible season with its litany of under-par performances when Steven Gerrard lifted the European Cup the following May.
This season’s Liverpool are more pragmatic than last year’s.
Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes open expansive football can leave open the back door if you go for it for the sake of it (Selhurst Park May 2014). I’d rather win 1-0 than go down in a glorious 4-5 defeat.
Mind you, I still want us to smash Arsenal into next Christmas. That goes without saying.