I can’t quite focus on anything else too much as the game is in my head. Supporting Liverpool FC these days is a knife edge – any loss matters, any stumble in form, a season deal breaker.
Every match is always important, but when it comes to Liverpool there’s simply not the comfort cushion there once was, there’s no confidence in the mentality of a side that had until Sunday, had yet to beat a top 8 side.
So it was no surprise to me that Liverpool found themselves a goal behind after a poor end to the first half and a sloppy start to the second half. In many ways it made me think about the Newcastle, Everton and Chelsea games whereby we come out the blocks strong and then let the opposition back into the game. I actually tweeted this during the game after going behind:
“Set piece shite defending again. Very mentally poor this from the reds. Sit back and spurs will punish!”
Then on comes Joe Allen, with most of Anfield calling for Henderson as was I. The change, changed the game. Rodgers proving the doubters wrong again, Rodgers outwitting his long-time friend Andre Villas-Boas.
Sturridge was clearly anxious and still recovering from his injury – it’s worthwhile remembering he only had two days full training since coming back.
And whilst Coutinho showed glimpses of brilliance, the backheel through to Enrique which resulted in the first goal is but a look into what a very gifted individual Liverpool has lured into their ranks, fitness is clearly still an issue for the youngster. It’s hard to believe he’s only 20.
Allen allowed the Reds to control the game, keep possession, and that resulted in higher pressing which eventually resulted in the two mistakes.
Make no mistake; Liverpool beat a wonderful team today. Spurs in the first 20 minutes of the second half had the game wrapped up. Those painful 20 minutes showing why Spurs are in the top 4 and why we’re not. There is a gulf in class as much I hate to say it.
They should have won, but Liverpool did something they’re slowly getting good at. They took their chances well (even though we didn’t create many) and they showed that if you give them a sniff, chances are they’ll take it. That’s something winners do, that’s the sign of a clinical team and that shows a slow regaining of mental strength that’s dogged the Reds since 2008/9.
The harsh reality we must accept as fans is that this Liverpool side are not yet ready for the Champions League. Spurs showed a class beyond this Liverpool side just now. There are only so many times you win games to opponents better than you, that’s why Istanbul was so special.
There’s more work to do, both in defence and shoring up the midfield. Whilst the youth ranks are promising, they are yet that: promising youngsters, not seasoned pro’s. The future of Jack Robinson looks in doubt with questions around his attitude seeming to have dogged the youngster once tipped by many to be England’s long term replacement to Ashley Cole.
Some fan groups are already discussing the possibility of up-to seven departures from Anfield this summer. Seven seems a high number, however it’s a fact that players will leave Liverpool at the end of this season. Coates, Assaidi, Skrtel, Borini, Enrique and Downing will all be a consideration for the transfer committee. Let’s not forget the heart of the club will lose the equivalent of the main artery in the retirement of Jamie Carragher.
With Carra going, it’s going to take an almighty transfer window to go anywhere near replacing the lad from Bootle. And even if it’s seven out and seven in, then there’s a chance that those transfers don’t work out. Transfers are at best a 50/50 game, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Being successful in the transfer window is as much luck as it is an art.
The question for Liverpool will be to stick or twist with some players, the renaissance of Downing and Enrique is but that, a renaissance. Enrique has the benefit of his position which I think will come to his advantage next year; this team aren’t exactly blessed with left-backs. With Downing looking like something for what Liverpool thought they’d signed, the question will be, does he give you enough of what you’d expect of someone on what is reportedly anywhere between £70-£90k a week?
One thing is for sure; this Liverpool side are in the ascendancy; a phrase that’s not fitted well when coupled with the Reds in the past few years. The major task ahead will be to build on the confidence that comes with beating one of the best sides in the Premiership now, here’s hoping we continue to punish those sides below us. Do that, beat Everton and Chelsea, and then anything is possible.
Come back and win games like today that we simply shouldn’t and then you’ll see the mental issues fade whilst the thin coating of a winner’s mentality starts to form. That, as well as quality and balance is all that’s holding us back from being a great side once more. It’s a big job – make no mistake about it.