I watched the match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at a bar in London. After asking for recommendations of where to go, a few different people recommended the Spread Eagle, just off Oxford Street. The manager there is a Liverpool supporter, with many Reds cramming themselves in to watch the match play out. To add a little more spice to the story, I was watching it with a Manchester United supporting friend of mine. On the way to the pub, I was telling him how I am a lot less invested in the results than I used to be. Whilst I still want Liverpool to win every time they play, I don’t suffer the same post-defeat hangovers that I used to. Nowadays, I’ll be a little bit annoyed but will return to normal life pretty quickly. Quite why that is the case I’m honestly not sure. In one sense, I think the financial doping of Manchester City and others has meant that results are largely irrelevant when you know that they’re still going to win, Missing out on two titles by a single point will make you jaded about such things, I’m sure.
Liverpool Football Club. Taking years off our lives since 1892. #LFC
— Anything Liverpool (@AnythingLFC_) April 30, 2023
There’s also the fact that my health isn’t what it once was. Multiple sclerosis is an awful disease, not least because there is no consistency for its sufferers. How it affects me won’t be the same as how it affect someone else, with balance and vision issues being the main ones as far as I’m currently concerned. Part of that means that I feel distant from the rest of the world a lot of the time. It is almost as though I’m looking at what is going on through a window; part of it but separated from it. As a result, it is a lot easier to not really as though I’m as emotionally invested in football matches as I was before my MS started to show symptoms. When you’re not as emotionally invested, it is an awful lot easier to get over poor results than it is when you’re living and breathing every moment of what you’re watching. There will be other people with MS who love their football and don’t know what I’m talking about because it doesn’t hit them in the same way. Against Spurs, though, I definitely felt that emotional investment, even if only briefly.
Coping With Adversity
For the opening half an hour of yesterday’s match, it was all far too easy for Liverpool. When the third goal went in, thanks to a penalty of all things, it seemed as though we could make the score absolutely anything. Having lost 6-1 to Newcastle in their previous away match, needing to issue refunds to the travelling supporters, Twitter was awash with Reds asking when the refunds were going to be given this time around. Life was good. The problem was, it had been a little bit too easy. When Paul Tierney of all referees decides to give you a penalty, you know that you’re living a charmed life. Liverpool began to become complacent and ignored several warnings from Spurs to get their act together. Once it went 3-1, I was desperate for the manager to get them into the dressing room and tell them to opt for some more defensive solidity. Rather than do that, however, Jürgen Klopp appeared to tell them to do more of the same. I tweeted that half-time that if we scored first it could finish 6-1, but if they did it would probably end up 3-3.
FT: #LFC 4 Spurs 3: Absolutely crazy
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) April 30, 2023
We weathered the first ten minutes and I thought we’d be ok. Yet as soon as it went to 3-2 I knew what was coming. It seemed as though the players did as well. Those frailties that we’ve seen from them far too regularly this season appeared to re-surface and it felt like everyone inside Anfield knew that an equaliser wasn’t far away. When it arrived, there was no sense of shock, just acceptance. Perhaps if Harry Kane had scored it we wouldn’t have got a winner. Maybe it was the former Evertonian scoring the goal and then doing his ridiculous pigeon dance that snapped all of our players out of their complacency. Whatever the reason, Diogo Jota did what he’s been doing a lot lately and stuck the ball in the back of the next less than two minutes after Richalison had drawn the London club level. Earlier in the season, we’d have gone on and lost that match. I am absolutely convinced of it. Yet we didn’t. We kept going and we won. Just like Liverpool of old.
What Does It Mean For Next Season?
There is still so much for Jürgen and his backroom staff to sort out before next season starts. As things currently stand, we don’t even know what European competition we’re going to be playing in. Whilst I think Champions League is extremely unlikely, it is still possible, should Manchester United fail to stumble over the line. Crucially, though, finding the balance between attack and defence might be what helps us challenge Manchester City’s dominance once more. Whilst Spurs managed to get back level yesterday, the truth is that they could have scored several more besides. The hit the post on a number of occasions and tested Alisson Becker a few times too. It looks like the manager has opted to return to heavy metal football while he figures out how to get the best out of this squad. If we keep giving away the same level of chances that we did yesterday, we’ll lose as many games as we win. If we can start with a sold base, there’s a chance that we’ll be able to have another title challenge next year.
Now Liverpool doesn’t have to depend solely on Salah to get goals. Jota, Gakpo, Luis Diaz, and Nunez are goal-scorers too. We are coming for everything next season.
— Smartlfc (@Smartooski) May 1, 2023
Although I’d obviously love us to be in the Champions League next season, I think we could win all of our remaining games and still end up missing out. Even so, I want us to put that run together because it is the kind of form that you need to be able to take into the next campaign if you’re to have any real hope of winning the title. We will strengthen in the summer, with all sorts of names being linked with the club and some having the club distant themselves from. Whatever happens, and for the record I think we will end up signing Jude Bellingham, taking the spirit of the match against Tottenham and adding it to a long period of winning matches is a really good place for us to start. The Trent Alexander-Arnold in a hybrid role between defence and midfield situation is both why we were able to make it 3-0 so easily, whilst also being why Spurs managed to get back into the game. Better personnel will allow us to flourish more readily in that system, but the muscle memory of winning is one of the most important things we can re-discover.
Sorry to hear about the MS, a terrible disease.
I think we will win all the remaining games. It was exciting at Anfield yesterday but also infuriating. But I also feel evolving needs a brave approach. You can see the roots of a recovery but this also needs a shrewd acquisitions policy over the summer, which will be tough, given FSG’s stance but possible if you realise that Gakpo at £35m is a snip.
So an exciting time ahead, regardless of ECL – but I’m still hopeful!