New Year’s Eve. Liverpool vs Manchester City. Under the lights of Anfield, a magical atmosphere. An air of invincibility surrounded the late afternoon clash, of which didn’t disappoint. From the first second we dug deep, was resilient, was tireless in our efforts. A true togetherness and unity between the team and fans a like. All finished off with a bullet header from our very own Dutch wizard, Gini. A thing of beauty. A crucial win.
Every Red was waking up in 2017 full to the brim with optimism of what the year ahead may hold. Make us dream, well I certainly was. In reality the next ten games seemed as if we’d awoken in some sort of parallel universe. Each matchday beginning with hope, just a blip, just a dip, then nervousness, deja vu and ending in counter attacking misery. Ground hog day. The exception of drawing with Chelsea and defeating the Plymouth Argyle in a replay the only glimmer of hope.
An attack at the start of the season capable of prising open the tightest of defences, were putting 4/5 goals past teams with ease. Yet now, even with 70-80% possession we’d barely create anything. We lacked creativity, grittiness, goals and most importantly confidence. Up next the Premier Leagues best defence with a more than decent attack. Brilliant? Or so you’d of thought.
At 2-0 the result didn’t show the true story of the game. It could’ve easily of been 5 or 6! What we witnessed against Spurs left me completely exuberant. My beloved Liverpool are back. Relentless pressing, nastiness, fast flowing, one touch football. That pass from Wijnaldum, the terrifying pace of Mané, a Lucas master class! A swarm reminiscent of Hull’s torrid visit to Anfield. I spent the whole night talking my fiancée into a sleep induced coma with regular outbursts of “get in” or “bloody love Jürgen.”
Enough of me rambling. Here’s where I’m going with all this reminiscing. Is this the revival of the team that tore defences apart or was it Tottenham’s tactics playing into our hands? Honestly I think a bit of both. No doubt about it, as many teams found out if you give us the space to attack and come at us, then you’re getting put to the sword. But, this wasn’t just a bad choice tactics. This was a hard fought, confident performance where we made our own luck. They didn’t have a second to think let alone pick out a pass and when we regained possession, the objective was instant, attack, attack, attack. Many think our January dip was due to fatigue, well that and Sadio’s absence but I think a huge problem is we’re so, so reliant of confidence running throughout the entire squad. The difference is taking one touch, making the right run, the right pass, taking charge. Compared to taking an extra touch, losing possession or being fearful of making a bad pass and taking the easy option, which slows down play further. Jürgen is slowly trying to implement a winning mentality but until that’s fully instilled, we need confidence. We managed fine against these lower teams earlier in the season regardless of their game plan. With the odd exception. Don’t mention Burnley. Or Bournemouth. Or, well you get the point.
What’s needed to finish the last 13 games with the same intensity as that Tottenham performance? I know. A mini pre-season if you will. A winter break.
The destination La Manga, Spain. Not a first time visit either for Klopp, he took his Dortmund team there 5 years on the trot, during their German winter break. Only 4 days compared to their 9 but a well used period to refresh and rejuvenate the squad, not just physically but mentally also. It’s not all double sessions and running either, Klopp’s clearly using this break to help the players bond further. A harmonised team. An FA Cup style selection for who’ll share rooms, a cold water plunge forfeit for losers of the six a side games, bike rides, etc. Personally I think this is a very clever move by Jürgen, turning the misfortune of not being part of the FA Cup/Champions League into a positive. A change of scenery, a happy camp, a confidence boost and trust in each other as well as themselves then return fully focused and charged to, hopefully charge into the final 13 game sprint for those crucial Champions League spots.
Klopp said in an interview with James Pearce (Liverpool Echo):
“But of course the Champions League is THE competition. We want to be part of it. To get there we have to win a few games.”
“We will see what happens. We just have to go for it.
“When there are 200 yards left of a long race, you cannot think about the finish, you can’t think: ‘What happens if I’m not on the podium?’
“You have to go for it. You have to get over that finish line and then look back to see who is behind you. That’s the situation we’re in.
“We are in the race. Nothing has been decided until now. Six good teams going for four places.
Next up for us is Leicester away after an 18 day lay off and although it feels like a lifetime to wait there’s a chance it might be brought forward from Monday the 27th to Saturday the 25th if Leicester draw against Millwall.
There’s far too many pessimistic fans around at the minute and yes, I’m completely aware of the long wait for glory to return. The way I like to look at it is we’ve made our mistakes but now have the opportunity to play once a week and push hard to finish as high as possible. An opportunity we must grasp with both hands. Plus ask yourself, who else in the world would you rather have in charge to attempt to get us back where we belong. I thought so. He asked for patience and we should be willing to give him it.
When we’re firing on all cylinders, we beat everyone.
Up the Reds.
Written by Ben Webb.