Liverpool Must Use The Win Against City As A Springboard

To many people, the idea of poor refereeing involves in the person in the middle getting big calls wrong. That isn’t always the case, though, as demonstrated by Anthony Taylor yesterday. Even if he had correctly awarded a foul for Erling Haaland’s tug on Fabinho’s shirt in the build-up to the goal, or disallowed it for the fact that the ball was kicked out of Alisson Becker’s hands, or sent Pep Guardiola off for his behaviour in the manner that he sent Jürgen Klopp to the stands, he’d still have had a dreadful game. The Manchester-born official shouldn’t be anywhere near Manchester City or Manchester United games, nor, if we’re being honest, near Liverpool matches. Perhaps you believe his claim that he supports Altrincham, in which case I’ve got some magic beans to sell you, but even if that is the case, he is still from the city of Manchester. He will have friends and family members that support City or United; he will have grown up hating Liverpool.

That is the only reason I can think behind his woeful decision-making yesterday. From the moment that he awarded City a free-kick because Joe Gomez won a header, I knew it was going to be one of those days. They were allowed to go through the back of players, get Mo Salah in a headlock and throw him to the ground before kicking him without Taylor or his assistants suggesting any issues. It is wild that he is considered to be the best official in the country by many, but the extent to which a once great referee, Michael Oliver, showed that he is now just as bad as the rest of them last week means that it is a very low bar indeed. For proponents of the ‘let the game flow’ philosophy, yesterday’s match should have made them realise why that doesn’t work. It is merely a vehicle through which referees can display their biases, as Taylor did repeatedly at Anfield. Thankfully, the Reds were able to win out against the 12-men representing the city of Manchester, meaning justice was served.

This Cannot Be Another False Dawn

Liverpool are not involved in this season’s title race. That, sadly, is evident merely by looking at the league table. Even if the Reds were to win their game in hand on Manchester City and Arsenal, they would remain 11 points behind the Gunners and seven points off Pep Guardiola’s team of sports-washing cheats. Last season, we were 14 points behind City at one point, albeit with two games in hand, missing out on the title by a single point. Seven points, therefore, is all but unassailable. Isn’t it? Being 11 points shy of Arsenal would take a monumental recovery, what with the Gunners showing how ruthless they were under pressure last season when they lost six of their remaining 12 games to throw away the Champions League place that was all but in their hands. I’m obviously being somewhat facetious here, though I do actually think that a title challenge is well beyond our capability after such an atrocious start to the campaign, sad as that is to say.

The one thing that we can do, though, is ensure that beating City isn’t merely a false dawn. When we beat Bournemouth 9-0, many people believed that that would be the moment that our season kicked into gear. Today, we’re level on points with the south-coast side. Depending on the results of Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion over the next couple of days, a win against West Ham United could see us get as high as sixth. This isn’t a moment to sit back and congratulate ourselves for our excellent display against the unlimited resources of Manchester City. Instead, it is time to shake off the fatigue from last season once and for all and get ourselves back on track. We have the ability to at least keep the leaders honest, if we can play like we did yesterday on a more consistent basis. West Ham will prove to be a stern challenge, meaning that we will find out soon enough if our win against City was a flash in the pan or a genuine new dawn.

The Manager Seems To Have Re-Found Himself

If we’re all honest with ourselves, it hadn’t been a great season for Jürgen Klopp, prior to yesterday’s result. The manager’s decision to tweak things tactically meant that Mohamed Salah was isolated on the right-wing, whilst our defensive shape was all over the place. He seemed to ask the players to keep going with tactics that weren’t working, expecting a press to suddenly arrive when there wasn’t any evidence that that would happen. His decision to get Salah more central and trust Harvey Elliott to help James Milner out defensively was a brilliant one, proving that he isn’t done and dusted just yet. The Milner decision is one that I have to congratulate him over, given the extent to which I desperately didn’t want to see the ageing midfielder anywhere near the team for the match against Manchester City. He was brilliant, working incredibly hard to keep Phil Foden and others at bay over the course of 90 minutes in a way that I didn’t think was possible.

What the manager has done is to tweak things in such a way that the lack of press is negated. It is now only a couple of players that need to be constantly moving and shifting, with the positions that they take up such that they can be young and fit. We are now looking to keep our shape, which allows for defensive solidity and an attack that is more supported. Indeed, if Darwin Núñez had made better decisions in the final third yesterday, we might well have walked away having put two or three past Man City. That is proof that the attacking side of our game is back on track, whilst the ‘zero’ on the scoresheet for one of the most prolific attacks in the league demonstrates that we’ve re-discovered our defensive mojo. The trick now is to repeat all of that against a West Ham side that will be turning up to Anfield hoping to get their own campaign going after a spluttering start. Expect counter-attacking football and give them no gifts and we should be ok.

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