It’s All Downhill From Here (For Some, Anyway)

After taking a few days to digest the action of the Liverpool – Leeds match, I considered entitling this piece ‘What The Hell Was All That About?’ A frantic return to Premier League action for the Premier League champions, with Leeds United proving those of us that thought they’d be a really tough opening day fixture absolutely correct. It has set alarm bells ringing in numerous quarters and some Liverpool fans are concerned that the concentration errors which dogged the Reds post-lockdown don’t seem to have gone anywhere just yet. Personally, I’m rather less worried than most. I think that Jürgen Klopp essentially treated the match as an extension of pre-season, which is why we saw Jordan Henderson in the starting line-up. He didn’t look totally up-to-speed, but the manager chose to start him because he desperately needs minutes.

Let’s also not forget that Trent Alexander-Arnold hasn’t had a pre-season after picking up an injury himself. He wasn’t out for as long as the club captain, but he isn’t as finely tuned as we’d like him to be and that was exacerbated by Leeds doubling up on him to try to nullify his influence on the match. The rustiness of both Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk is harder to explain, though in the case of the Dutch centre-back it’s not unreasonable to point out that he’s played a huge amount of football without any sort of break. It’s mentally as well as physically exhausting and one of the reasons why I’m skeptical about Klopp’s plan to ‘find solutions’ at the back rather than go into the transfer market. In terms of the match, though, it was bonkers for all of the above reasons. The key takeaway from it for me, however, was that the Reds still found a way to win.

Being Run Responsibly Isn’t Enough

At the height of the fighting against the ownership of Hicks & Gillett, the Liverpool fans that were matching against the Americans were also, implicitly, marching for responsible owners. Having seen those cowboys heap debt onto the club and push us towards the brink of bankruptcy, many wanted owners to come in and run the Reds responsibly. Those that wanted oil-rich billionaires to come in, as had happened at Manchester City, will also have been critical of the way that that club is run during the recent argument between the Cityzens and UEFA. You can’t have it both ways. If owners have made their money via questionable means then it’s not unreasonable to assume that they’ll continue to behave in a questionable manner. Speaking for myself, if Liverpool’s title had come thanks to owners behaving as though they’re playing a video game, it wouldn’t have meant much to me.

Instead, our title last season has come about thanks to a genius manager working alongside people who are at the top of their game. Michael Edwards’s wheeling and dealing has been praised by most supporters over the last couple of years, yet now that the club has continued to follow his strategy in not giving Bayern Munich exactly what they want for Thiago Alcantara, there are many that are being critical of him and the owners. All that is happening is that the club continues to be run as responsibly as possible, which is what the vast majority of us wished for back in 2010, but it isn’t enough for huge numbers of Liverpool fans. They refuse to acknowledge the very real threat of a global pandemic that is unlikely to see supporters back in the ground any time soon, meaning that a massive section of income is gone indefinitely. They want players and they want them now.

Win At A Canter Or Face The Consequences

Last season was an anomaly in more ways than one. Yes, the global pandemic that essentially shut down football and has so far resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world is quite rightly the main talking point. Yet it’s also worth noting that Liverpool won the league so easily that it made a mockery of suggestions that it was ever a two-horse race. The problem is that supporters that are never happy will feel as though that’s the bare minimum that needs to be achieved from now on. They’ll want us to go unbeaten, winning every single game that we play in and if we don’t then it will be seen as a sign that we’ve taken a backwards step. Forget the idea that every other team in the division had to strengthen just to get close to us, we will have failed if we don’t outperform what happened last time out, in the eyes of some.

Having done what we have all waited so long for in winning the Premier League, too many people seem to have dismissed that achievement and are already gearing up to be annoyed that we haven’t retained it. Forget the fact that Manchester City were the first team to win back-to-back top-flight titles in England since their city rivals did so in 2009; Liverpool have won it so they should keep on winning it forever. Every draw will be seen as a catastrophe, every defeat as the end of the Klopp-era. Football has switched from being about what happens on the pitch to mainly being about the occurrences off it, with transfers being at the top of that last. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love us to bring in Thiago, Sarr and another defender. I just acknowledge that I also wanted us to make signings last summer and that turned out alright. It’s time to celebrate what we’ve got, not mourn what we haven’t.

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