It wasn’t a classic performance against Bournemouth by the Reds. I’ve said before that if Jürgen Klopp had to pick a team to play for his life then I think he’d ask for Eddie Howe’s Cherries. They lack the ruthless streak that the likes of Watford or even West Ham have. They’re never going to bully you and they don’t have enough going forward to trouble your defence, whilst also being weak themselves at the back. It’s little wonder, therefore, that plenty of Liverpool supporters were opting for predictions of three, four or five nil. I lacked that level of confidence, believing we’d win but being convinced that it would be a Both Teams To Score type situation. Ultimately, after a slightly tricky spell, the most important thing was adding three points to the league total as we head towards our first title for thirty years. No one really knows how to behave, such is the odd feeling of this being a title procession rather than a fight.
— Seema Jaswal (@meseemajaswal) March 7, 2020
Despite Jürgen Klopp suggesting that the crowd was the best it’s been since he arrived at the club on Saturday, the reality is that the atmosphere was poor. I’m not surprised, though. Everyone knows that we’re going to win the league, such is the gap between us and Manchester City and the Cityzens are the only team that can catch us now. Yet we haven’t actually won it yet, with everyone aware that any club in the Premier League has the ability to throw it away from here then it’s us. It’s why everyone’s not quite sure whether to be treating every home game like a party or allowing the nerves to take over. Add to that the fact that Alisson Becker was missing and you can see why it was a somewhat more subdued atmosphere than many might have been expecting. The team was quite flat alongside that, struggling to adapt to the wind. Arguably the biggest problem came with the early goal, which wouldn’t have stood with a decent referee.
LiVARpool Shouts Are Influencing Referees
I’ve said all season long that the shouts of ‘LiVARpool’ would eventually cause us a problem, even as loads of the supporters were laughing about it and Tweeting about it alongside the needle emoji. The problem as I saw it is the fact that narratives start to influence referees when it becomes common parlance. As soon as the likes of Match Of The Day, Sky Sports and BT Sport started talking as though it was an actual thing, it wasn’t going to take long before referees would bear it in mind, even if only subconsciously, when making decisions. It was clear for all to see on Saturday that the opening goal involved a foul in the build-up. It was such a blatant push from Callum Wilson that pretty much everyone seemed to stop accordingly. Even when the match went on the Liverpool defence seemed to play in a manner that suggested that they were expecting the Video Assistant Referee to overrule it when it was referred to them.
So the PGMOL official statement on that Bournemouth goal is that the ref saw the push, deemed it insufficient contact.
Reminds me of the foul on Origi for the United goal earlier in the season. Would much prefer the person with the best view to make that call.
— Stephen Drennan (@babuyagu) March 7, 2020
Obviously you’d hope that that isn’t the case, given the manner in which even young kids are taught to play to the whistle, yet everyone expected the goal to be disallowed. We all expect referees to be above such influences as narratives being spun by newspapers and TV shows, yet it isn’t out of the realms of the possible that Mike Dean in the VAR booth briefly wondered whether it would be seen as favouring Liverpool for him to disallow it. That the match referee reportedly said that he saw the push and deemed it to be not enough to be a foul will have further confused Dean’s thinking, of course. I don’t expect an opposition supporter to read this piece and have much sympathy for Liverpool, but the reality is that we haven’t had anywhere near the amount of VAR decisions that is being suggested. From players being wrestled to the ground time and again to Mo Salah having players strangling him, the VAR is not our friend.
Appalling Referees Don’t Care About Narratives
Of course, there’s also a reality that the referees don’t care about narratives and just aren’t very good. You can give referees all the technology in the world but if they’re not very good at their job then there’s not much that the technology can do to help. I do believe that narratives exist in football and influence referees. I’m genuinely not sure how Liverpool, who spend most of every home game with the ball in the opposition half, have still had no more Kop end penalties over the past few seasons as Tottenham Hotspur. The only explanation that makes any sense is that referees are terrified of being seen as being influenced by the Liverpool crowd, so they give opposing decisions to the ones that will see us benefit. If you don’t believe me then check out Paul Tomkins’ timeline when he talks about referees and the manner in which the Reds simply haven’t been getting any decisions at home and you’ll see what I mean.
These referees are biblically atrocious and it is beyond time for them to get proper questioned and called out for it. No more protective bollocks with them which loads of journos love to trot out. No amount of technology will work when those operating it are just fucking crap.
— Ryan (@ryan3levis) March 7, 2020
Yet the simple truth is that the level of refereeing in this country is dreadful. There’s not one referee other than Michael Oliver that I’m pleased to see the name of when Liverpool are playing, and even Oliver wasn’t great the last time he took charge of one of our matches. For proof of the appalling state of things, you simply have to watch any match that Jon Moss takes charge of. He is unfit to a disgraceful degree, trying to keep up with young men primed to be the fittest in their lives. He is rarely able to keep up with play and if the football passes within ten metres of him then it’s by accident. Lee Mason is another one who is woeful, and yet was rewarded with the League Cup final. Narratives play a part in football, but not as much as referees who just aren’t very good at their job do. I firmly believe that football needs to use technology to help officials out, just as other sports do, and yet if those using it are incompetent it won’t help much.