As Storm Clodagh swirled around Anfield, fans could have been forgiven for thinking about ignoring Jurgen Klopp’s criticism of their desire to get home early and slipped quietly down the tunnel. It was a day when the weather was one of the biggest factors as far as the quality of the game was concerned, with neither Swansea nor Liverpool registering a shot on target in the first half.
Liverpool had yet to win a Premier League match under Jurgen Klopp’s stewardship before a ball was kicked last night, so it’s little wonder that nerves seemed to affect the players as the match wore on. They’ve won one now, though, and what an important one it was. With Manchester United, Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester and even West Ham failing to get all three points in their matches – plus, of course, Everton’s hilarious 3-3 draw with Bournemouth – a win was almost certainly more important than a performance against the Welsh team.
With Colin Pascoe turning up to Anfield to watch his two former teams play each other plus Steven Gerrard’s presence in the stands on the day before he returned to Melwood to train with Liverpool during his break from his time in Los Angeles, old ghosts of instability nearly returned to ruin the day. It wasn’t to be, however, and now Liverpool sit just six points from the top of the Premier League table.
We’ll now have a look at the key talking points from the match, so make sure you get in touch if you think we’ve missed anything obvious. You can leave a comment below our article or else send us a tweet to @andcouldheplay7. We love getting involved in sensible chats about the game so don’t be afraid to tell us you think we’re idiots if we get something terribly wrong!
Much like Take That or Snow White and the Seven Dwarf’s doctor, it’s important that Liverpool fans have a little patience in the coming weeks and months. Whatever else happens in the future there can be no question that teams will turn up to Anfield hoping to frustrate the Reds. If they’re successful for any length of time then the likelihood is that the crowd will get frustrated too.
In yesterday’s game there was no doubt that Liverpool were the better team up until they scored. The spent the first twenty minutes or so of the game pinning Swansea back, asking constant questions of Ashley Williams and his defensive partners whilst also causing them any number of problems.
Jordan Ibe should have done better when he was essentially put clean through on goal. Yes he nearly earned an own goal as the Swansea defender tackled him and forced the ball onto the post, but the near-twenty-year-old really should have been testing the ‘keeper himself. He is undoubtedly a great player for the future of Liverpool, but he needs to be making better decisions if he hopes to be a regular starter rather than a talented squad player moving forward.
Has Ibe scored his chance it’s entirely possible that we might have seen that home performance that everyone has been crying out for. He didn’t score it, though, and the crowd began to get restless as time went on.
The cliche that championship winning sides find a way to win even when they’re not playing well is an over-used expression for a reason: It’s true. As much as Manchester United under Alex Ferguson were known for their swashbuckling style, there were plenty of times when they won by playing ugly. You can’t always play champagne football, so the Anfield crowd could help the team out by not moaning and groaning just because the lads aren’t 4-0 up going into the half-time break.
Jurgen Klopp has already changed so much about Liverpool’s style of play, and he’s only been manager for ten games. It’s possible that he’ll maintain his current record of one defeat in ten, but that somehow seems unlikely. So Liverpool fans would help the team out enormously by re-gaining their title as one of the most knowledgeable crowds in the game. Relaxing and enjoying the game as it happens, encouraging the team and not allowing itself to get too downhearted when things don’t immediately go our way will be a huge step in the right direction.
An example of what a difference a volatile crowd can make came in the second half. Ashley Williams, the Swansea captain, gave the Kop a sarcastic round of applause as he felt they had essentially scared the assistant referee into giving a penalty. It might be true of course; 12,000 angry Scousers screaming at you can’t be a pretty sight.
Yet too often in recent times that anger has been directed at the players in Red, rather than at the opposition or the officials. Anthony Taylor didn’t have a brilliant game in the middle of the park, but he did seem keen to give virtually anything that was claimed for, so why didn’t the Kop claim for more?
Swansea are, despite their recent problems, still a good side that like to pass the ball around a bit. Perhaps they were hampered a touch by the swirling wind, but even so they got the ball on the floor as often as possible and that played into Liverpool’s hands.
Things won’t be quite as happy when teams like West Brom run onto the Anfield pitch in the coming weeks. Tony Pulis knows how to set up a team to frustrate their opposition and to strangle the life out of the game. Leicester City also showed against Manchester United that they know how to stifle the match and cause problems.
When those two teams turn up on Merseyside it will be vital for the Liverpool crowd to refuse to be suckered in to their tactics, instead roaring the Reds on remaining convinced that all three points are there for the taking up until the last kick of the game. Against Swansea yesterday afternoon the fears of the fans found their way to pitch side, with the last twenty minutes of the game seeming nervy when it needn’t be. Klopp asked us all to turn from doubters into believers; well believers believe from the first minute until the last.
Six Points From The Top
It seems crazy to talk of Liverpool as possible title contenders. The 2013-2014 challenge was marvellous for so many reasons, not least of which was the breath-taking football the Reds played. This season it seemed even more unlikely that Liverpool would be able to threaten at the top end of the table, with a poor start culminating in the dismissal of a manager.
Football is a remarkably fluid thing, with constant twists and turns now as much a part of a Premier League season as Paul Merson’s dreadful punditry and Jamie Redknapp’s shiny suits. You’d have been called crazy if you’d suggested Liverpool could win the title back in August, but then would you have called someone sane if they’d told you Chelsea would be in the bottom half of the table and Leicester City near the top as we head into the Christmas period?
There are many things to give Liverpool fans hope. We’ve been to Manchester United; we’ve played at The Etihad and The Emirates; we’ve won at Stamford Bridge and The Britannia; we’ve drawn against Tottenham and Everton. We’ve played all of the most difficult away fixtures there are to play and we’ve come away from them with a respectable points haul. We’ve only lost one of the games, too, and few teams leave Old Trafford with anything at all regardless of who is in the Red Devils’ dugout.
All of the top teams have to come to Anfield and the more that Jurgen Klopp can get the Mighty Reds playing like they did against City and Chelsea the less they will be looking forward to it. Newcastle away, West Brom at home, Watford away, Leicester at home, Sunderland away. Not a bad set of fixtures on the horizon. How many points are realistic? All 15? Maybe. What then?
If Liverpool are two, three, four points from the top of the table at the end of the Christmas period are you really going to rule them out of the running? It’s unlikely we’ll be top of the table on Christmas Day, which is a shame as the team who are invariably go on to win the league. The only team that hasn’t – twice – is Liverpool. Top when we ate our turkey in 2008, top when we opened out presents in 2013, we finished second both times.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it was us who added someone else’s name to the list of Christmas day losers this time around? Why shouldn’t we? Why couldn’t we? If not us then who?
It was rumoured that one of the reasons that Fenway Sports Group chose to remove Rodgers from his position as manager was that they felt that this league was imminently winnable. Given that Manchester United fans don’t even think that Manchester United can win it, despite their team sitting just a point off the leaders, it’s not the most outrageous thought that a team’s owners have ever had.
United are boring, not losing often but not winning as many games as they should be either. Spurs are a good side and are perhaps being under-estimated, but they always seem like they’re little more than a Harry Kane injury away from collapsing completely. Chelsea are out of the running, Leicester surely unable to maintain their fine run of form for the entire campaign and Arsenal are having a fun run of injuries similar to that that we’re just coming out the other side of.
That just leaves Manchester City who are still the most likely to win the league. That said, they conceded four against Spurs at White Hart Lane and we smashed four past them on their own turf, so they’re hardly unbeatable. Can they continue to drop points in unexpected places? You’d have to assume so and if we’re able to turn them over at Anfield in the same way that we did at The Etihad then that would, right now, put us three points behind them; far from an unassailable lead.
Swansea were good, they were organised, they battled. They came to Anfield in the swirling wind and caused this Liverpool team all sorts of problems. Yet they were problems that the lads in Red overcame. Winning ugly, winning even when you’re not playing well being the sign of champions is a cliche because it’s true. Liverpool haven’t done it well enough for the last 26 years. This scrappy win over a determined Swansea side could be the moment that both the crowd and the team realised that they have what it takes.
Jurgen Klopp has played down the idea that Liverpool could yet get themselves involved in the title race. He would, he said, ‘think about it every day’ if he thought it would help. That’s fair enough, the expectation could be a mental weight that the players aren’t yet ready to bear. We can think about it, though. We can think about it every day and allow the possibility and the excitement to overwhelm us. Why not? We’re only six points off the top of the league, but it could be a straight footrace between us and City. Who’s got the most desire to take it to the wire? We just missed out last time. These three points against Swansea could be crucial when we look back in May. Do we dare to dream?