The League Is Over, There’s No Point Carrying On

To start with, let’s discuss the red card. Whilst I think it was stupid of Darwin Núñez to give the referee the chance to send him off, I’m not actually as down on the Uruguayan as everyone else. I think we’ve all see that sort of thing countless times before: a player turns into another with his chest puffed out, the other puffs his chest out and they get involved in a little bit of argy-bargy. Other players pile in and the commentator says something like ‘no one wants to see that sort of thing’, knowing full well that we all want to see that sort of thing. The referee eventually comes over and books both players, then the game continues. Instead, Joachim Andersen hit the deck like he’d been shot, claiming he’d been head-butted when replays show Darwin didn’t get close to his head. Out comes the red card and today we have to put up with plenty of hand-wringing from people that really should know better, all claiming that Núñez should be ‘embarrassed’ today.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he did nothing wrong. Anderson had been going at him all game and it was clear that the Uruguayan was frustrated that the referee wasn’t giving him anything. Unfortunately, that is one lesson that I don’t think Jürgen Klopp’s teams ever learn: when a referee isn’t giving you anything, stop asking them for stuff. Greater Manchester’s Paul Tierney very clearly hates Liverpool, such is the extent to which he never gives the Reds anything. The likelihood of us getting anything out of him was slim and he was always going to brandish the red card if he had the opportunity to do so. Darwin was idiotic to even slightly move his head towards Anderson, so I have no sympathy for him. I just can’t be bothered with all of the over-reaction that we’ve seen today, acting as if the Uruguayan forward grabbed hold of him and repeatedly smashed his head into his nose. It was stupid, but it wasn’t bad as many are now making out.

Man City’s Repeated 114 Point Tallies Mean The Season Is Over

Make no mistake, draws with Fulham away and Crystal Palace at home are poor and this is not the start to the season that anyone wanted to see. There is no sugar-coating that and I well understand why people are feeling somewhat deflated after the first two games of the campaign. What I do think, though, is that the reaction has been as over-the-top as the reaction to Darwin’s head-butt has been. Here is a list of non-top six teams that Manchester City have dropped points to across the past five seasons:

  • Everton
  • Crystal Palace x 5
  • Burnley
  • Huddersfield Town
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers x 3
  • Leicester City x 2
  • Newcastle United x 2
  • Norwich City
  • Southampton
  • Leeds United x 2
  • West Ham United x 2
  • West Bromwich Albion
  • Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Southampton

Whilst the Reds have made life very difficult for themselves, the idea that the league is completely gone already is laughable. City drop points when you least expect it and that is during a normal season. What we’re currently at the start of is anything but a normal season, given the manner in which the World Cup is going to interrupt proceedings and we have no idea how things will go in the weeks that come after it. That is to say nothing about the fact that Sportswash FC have a lot more players going to the tournament than Liverpool do, so the end of the season could be significantly more important than the start of it.

There are far too many people acting as though Man City have notched up the maximum 114 points across all of the seasons in which Pep Guardiola has been at the club. No team in the history of football has managed to do that and I don’t think that they’re about to start now. Of course it would have been better to see us win our opening two games, yet the people I’ve seen on Twitter declaring the title race to already be done and saying that we’ll be lucky to finish above Arsenal leave me bemused. What is the point in even watching the matches if that is your mindset? Certainly if you have tickets for games, I’d suggest giving them to someone else, someone that might enjoy them. This Liverpool team is made of stronger stuff than some of the supporters, which is something we should all be grateful for.

Fine Margins Mean We’re Worse Off Than We Should Be

The performances of Liverpool across the opening two games of the season have been, for differing reasons, poor. The one against Fulham was especially frustrating, given the fact that we never really got out of the blocks and seemed to be complacent throughout. Even so, the main reason why the Reds aren’t sitting on six points at this point in the campaign is not because we were dreadful in both games, but because fine margins played against us. There are plenty of people who dislike Expected Goals as a statistic, yet would doubtless trot out the old adage that players have ‘got to be scoring that’ when a good opportunity falls their way. The fact that xG is effectively just a statistical representation of that phrase seems to be entirely irrelevant to such people. It is with this in mind that they’re happy to dismiss the fact that Liverpool have a higher xG than any other Premier League team after two games and could easily have won both matches.

The xG of 4.7 in the opening two games of the campaign would be more than enough to secure wins against a newly promoted team and Palace at home most of the time, but sometimes such fine margins don’t go your way. Mohamed Salah, that incredibly selfish forward who only every wants to score, created eight chances for others last night, which is the most by a single player in a Premier League match since Bruno Fernandes did it against Leicester City for Manchester United in October of 2021. If a few of those chances are put into the back of the net, we’re having a different conversation today. I would, of course, prefer it if we’d have won our opening two matches of the season, but I refuse to be as doom and gloom as so many other people I’ve seen on here. City will drop points in an unexpected manner, just as they’ve done in every campaign under Pep Guardiola. Our job is to get ourselves up off the mat and make sure we’re there to take advantage when they do.

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