These Mentality Monsters

There will be a time when Liverpool don’t play every fixture available to them. It will almost certainly be next year. The only question, though, is what sort of a fool would bet against them? There were plenty of fools last night, myself included. At half-time, it looked as though our third Champions League final in five years was slipping away from us. I honestly can’t remember the last time the Reds played as badly as that. To suggest that we were awful would be an understatement and I’m not entirely sure about how much credit goes to Villarreal for that. Don’t get me wrong, the Spanish side were excellent. Yet too many Liverpool players could barely make a pass when under no pressure, constantly trying difficult things that weren’t coming off rather than keeping it simple and finding their way into the game. No one emerged from the first forty-five minutes with any credit, if we’re all being honest with ourselves, perhaps including the manager.

Tactics in a football match are as much about what you ask the players to do as they are about the players that you pick. It seemed as if Liverpool went out without knowing whether to stick or twist in the first-half, resulting in us doing neither. We didn’t attack well and we were defensively sloppy; none of which was helped by a midfield that was all but non-existent. Thiago Alcantara was really poor, but Naby Keïta literally played a through-ball for their attacker that could have seen us 3-0 down before half-time. Obviously there are vast swathes of people on the internet that refuse to criticise him, and it is certainly true that he wasn’t the only under-performing player in the opening period, but being able to call out his errors is as important as praising good performances. The thing about this Liverpool team, though, is that the players are able to let go of errors and poor performances, with our second-half being one of the best of the season.

The Comeback Kings

I think that the majority of Liverpool fans will have had at least a moment of doubt at half-time yesterday. Though the Reds deserve huge amounts of credit for the manner in which they refuse to lie down and die no matter the situation, throwing away a two-goal lead and seemingly wilting in that environment meant that our European Cup dream was hanging by a thread. Doubt would have been entirely fair, but we really should never doubt these players or this manager. They are simply too good to be questioned when they’ve got success in their sights, as they’ve proven over and over again this season. They have given us dreams repeatedly and we all get to keep dreaming of the impossible, for a few more weeks ast least. What team would want to come up against us in this form? I have said for a while that I’m really worried about Spurs at the weekend, with Son and Kane well-placed to beat our highline, but even if we concede would you bet against us?

It is still entirely possible that we finish the season with only the League Cup to show for it. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it is a real possibility. Whilst certain sections of the fan base and rival supporters would make out as if that means that we’re somehow rubbish or ‘bottlers’, the reality is that the Reds have been phenomenal this season. No other team has managed to make make it the finals of the League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season, so that itself deserves applause. We’ve been tremendous and there is no question that Liverpool supporters will show the team and manager the love that it deserves, should we have a trophy parade for the one trophy we definitely have won. This is a group that deserves to be remembered as the best of all time and that is only likely to happen if we win one of the big trophies. Who knows whether we will or not, but the key thing is that we’ve put ourselves in position to do so. What more could we ask?

Another European Cup Final

For all that Keïta and his Liverpool teammates were poor in the first-half, the second period was like night and day for all concerned. The ability to let go of what had happened and put a performance in like they did is yet more proof of the mentality instilled in the side by Jürgen Klopp. The German has utterly transformed the way that both the players and supporters feel about football matches. This will be his third European Cup final in five years, his fourth European final in six years. It is remarkable what he’s pulling off and there genuinely is a danger that we begin to take it for granted. We might be knocked out of the Champions League in the last sixteen next season, or not even make it out of the group. That will be seen as a disaster, largely because of the heights that we’ve hit over the past few years. It is so important that we soak up every minute of this team, for it won’t always be like this. Right now, Paris is beckoning the Reds for a potentional seventh European Cup win.

That that will come after a League Cup win and an FA Cup final is incredible in and of itself, to say nothing of the potential Premier League win. This team is vying for an unprecedented quadruple, with only Manchester City and Chelsea standing in their way, presuming things go as I expect them to tonight. It says something that the only teams that can stop Liverpool achieving the impossible are one that is the plaything of a sports-washing nation and the other was built using the money of a Russian oligarch. Fenway Sports Group have made mistakes over the years, of that there’s no doubt. But they have put the system in place that has allowed us to get to this position whilst also sticking within the rules of the game, which can’t be said for other teams on the list. If we win a double, a treble or, dream of dreams, a quadruple in the era of sports-washing then there is little doubt in my mind that it will be one of the finest achievements ever in the game.

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