Newcastle United 1 – Liverpool 1: Match Review And Analysis

It’s a funny situation that Liverpool Football Club finds itself in at the moment. On the one hand, one win in the previous seven matches in all competitions is suggestive of a slump that we don’t seem to be able to drag ourselves out of. One the other, we’ve only lost once so far this season and are just two points shy of Tottenham Hotspur in third who no-one is saying are having a poor season. There’s a narrative around the place right now that everything’s going terribly for us, but it’s simply not based in fact. Yes, Manchester United and Manchester City are playing exceptionally well right now, racing to a lead at the top of the league. Yet it’s ludicrous to suggest that that means the season is over already.

As far as I remember seasons last for 38 games. We’ve played 7 of them. Of course it’s problematic that we’re seven points off the top considering how well the two Manchester clubs are playing, but it’s worth noting that United haven’t faced a single team expected to take points from them yet. There’s also the fact that a title win alone can’t be the only thing that dictates whether or not a season is a success. Were that to be the case, nineteen teams would sack their manager at the end of every campaign. Liverpool supporters should know better about trusting the press, yet plenty are desperate to buy into the narrative that we’re having a dreadful season but everyone else is going great guns. It’s a strange attitude that will inform how some people judge today’s game.

Sturridge’s Race Might Just Be Run

As my introduction should lead you to believe, I’m a positive-minded person. I always try to look on the bright side and rarely join others in constantly looking at the doom and gloom of any given situation. I’m not one to throw in the towel before there’s no way a recovery can be completed. With all of that in mind, then, it’s really difficult for me to be negative about a player that I love, but I can’t help thinking that Daniel Sturridge’s time at the club might have been extended for a season too long. The England striker was world-class during the 2013-2014 season, only failing to receive the plaudits his performances deserve because he was outshone by a Luis Suarez who was the best player on the planet on form at the time.

We know the problems with his injury record, of course. Time and again he’s been ruled out of matches because of issues with his body that suggest he’s made of candy floss. The irony is that he’s actually not suffered from that many big injury problems since Jürgen Klopp arrived and decided to remove the club’s dependency on him, but the flip side is that he hasn’t been anywhere near the same player since he missed the majority of the 2014-2015 season. He’s still got the game intelligence, as he demonstrated against Leicester when he came on and found the time to play a brilliant ball for Henderson’s goal, but he looks yards off the pace of the game. I could understand calls for him to play today, especially considering Roberto Firmino’s poor form of late, but he’s now missed two sitters in a row that have cost us wins.

Firmino

He’s not the only player to lack a cutting edge, of course. That said, he’s literally on the pitch to finish those sorts of chances and that’s what he’s meant to be good at. If that’s the Sturridge of of ’13-’14 he scores both of those chances, we win both games and there’s no talk whatsoever about Liverpool’s poor run of form. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and instead the most natural striker and clinical finisher we’ve got at the club missed two chances that strikers would typically beg for. Perhaps he scores them if the likes of Mohamed Salah and Gini Wijnaldum put their opportunities into the back of the net, but number nines should be scoring those chances all day long.

We might, therefore, be getting to the point where we have to accept that Daniel Sturridge’s race is run. He’s not finishing big chances, he’s slow, he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the Liverpool attack in terms of what he brings to the team and he’s not even holding the ball up in order to get other players involved in the game. We sent Divock Origi off on loan because both Sturridge and Dominic Solanke are ahead of him in the pecking order, but on today’s form I’m not sure that he would be our third-choice striker. I thought Solanke looked much brighter when he came on and, despite his youth, the former Chelsea player fits into much better with what we’re trying to do moving forward. I love Daniel Sturridge and I still think he’s a top bloke, but I’m afraid the clock is running down on his time at Liverpool.

We’re Not Getting The Rub Of The Green

Before I say anything else, I want to make absolutely clear that I don’t think there’s any sort of conspiracy against us. I do not believe that the Football Association has been actively getting its referees to give decisions that go against us. I do believe that some officials, like Anthony Taylor for example, have no place refereeing Liverpool games considering their close ties to Manchester United, but I don’t think there’s any sort of coordinated effort to ruin our season. Having said all of that, I do think we’re going through a period of incredible bad luck just at the moment. There’s practically nothing going our way and we’re not getting the same breaks that other sides are. There will be some of you reading this that think I’m making excuses, but perhaps when the dust settles you’ll be more accepting of it as fact.

Today’s game was, in many ways, an encapsulation of everything that’s been happening for Liverpool this season. Take their goal as an example; if the assistant referee had flagged Joselu as offside the commentators might have briefly referred to is as being ‘a close call’ but they’d have moved on quickly enough and we never would have talked about it again. If Joel Matip’s tackle had gone into the middle of Simon Mignolet’s path and the goalkeeper had cleared it or it had rolled just wide of the post, we’d be talking about what a good recovery it was from the Cameroonian. Instead the flag stayed down, the deflection went exactly where we didn’t want it to and Newcastle had a goal from absolutely nothing. You can play pretty much the same scenario through at the other end of the pitch, too. Had Craig Pawson given a penalty when Dejan Lovren was wrestled to the ground, no one would have batted an eyelid.

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

It’s the sort of penalty Liverpool have conceded over and over again but that we rarely get given. When Newcastle’s defender missed the ball and it ran through to Daniel Sturridge, that’s the sort of mistake our defence makes and the opposition has been punishing regularly all season long. Gini Wijnaldum might well have scored from the corner that hit the post in another game, but he didn’t. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be wondering how he missed the header he had at the end of the game. Sadio Mané will rue the pass he played behind Mo Salah when a ball in front of him gets walked into the back of the net. The luck hasn’t been going our way and it’s been having a huge affect on our season, whether some fans are willing to admit it or not. I know the done thing is to talk about how ‘poor’ we are, but I’m not sure that the facts marry up with that narrative.

the problem is that when fortune isn’t on your side and you don’t get the breaks, everyone becomes a bit more tense. There’s a negative air and a bad narrative around the club at the moment, but it’s only fine margins that’s stopped us from having a brilliant start to the season. You could say that we’ve only won one is seven or you could say we’ve only lost one in seven. It all depends on whether you want to look at things from a negative perspective or not. The issue for me is that the more you decide things are going badly, the worse the situation gets. If supporters and players go into games thinking we’re going to concede and the attack will struggle to score, there’s a stronger likelihood that those things will come to fruition. There’s a reason people believe that positive mindsets can make a positive difference.

It Won’t Take Much To Turn Things Around

I’m more than aware that plenty of people will almost certainly not have even got this far. They’ll have given up at the suggestion that luck has played a part in our current situation, disappearing off to Twitter to tweet about Klopp having ‘lost it’ and this Liverpool team being ‘the worst since Souness’. The reality is that we’re incredibly close to being a brilliant team and for our season to be flipped on its head. I understand that supporters are frustrated and I’d agree with the calls for panic if we weren’t creating any chances. That’s simply not true, however, with plenty of big chances arriving every single game and few chances being given away. There’s no way that that situation carries on for much longer. The feeling that we’ll ‘give a team a hiding’ one day soon persists and there’s a reason for that – we will.

It won’t take an awful lot for the narrative to get turned on its head. If we beat Manchester United at home, say, and get a draw against Spurs at Wembley then we’ll be heading into games against Brighton and West Ham with our tails up and a possible ten points from twelve. If we score two or three goals and keep a few clean sheets then everyone will be feeling more positive and the table will look significantly different. Right now the more negative-minded amongst you will be saying that that will never happen; I’ve already had people tweet me to say that we’ll lose against both Spurs and United. Apparently the top four is already going to be a struggle and City and United will walk the title. Much like City had won the title at this point last season and Chelsea would be lucky to finish in the top six…

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