Two More Wins To Head Into The World Cup On The Front Foot

Liverpool’s performance against Tottenham Hotspur yesterday afternoon was, in many ways, the perfect summary of our season so far. For periods of the game, we were much the better team. We started brilliantly, putting Spurs on the back foot and dominating them until we scored. In the ten minutes or so that followed the goal, we reacted as if it had been the London club that had scored and we were thinking, “Not this again.” We regained our composure and got a second, which always felt as though it was going to be necessary if we were to get something out of the game. The second-half was arguably the worst I’ve seen us play all season, which is saying something when you consider the fact that we’ve lost to Nottingham Forest and Leeds United in quick succession. In both of those games, though, we controlled the match for most of the 90s, conceding stupid goals after making brainless mistakes. This was brainless on speed-dial, needlessly giving away possession repeatedly.

That isn’t something that you can do against the best teams. Tottenham aren’t one of the best teams, but they do have a striker who, for all of his personality deficiencies, knows how to put the ball into the back of the net. He was given one half-chance and gobbled it up, slotting past Alisson Becker from an almost impossible angle. It was more through luck than judgement that we managed to hang on for the win, but considering some of the misfortune that the Reds have had this season, I’ll take it. I couldn’t believe how poor our passing was in the second-half. Even the normally reliable Thiago Alcantara was passing it straight to Tottenham players. On the one hand, it is to be expected that we were shaky considering our lack of confidence of late. On the other, we knew that Spurs would come out stronger in the second period and yet seemed to be surprised by it all. The manager also left his subs later than he should’ve, but ultimately it didn’t matter and they’re three massive points.

Cup Runs Are Fun

Liverpool have been handed a very nice draw in the League Cup. Derby County won’t be easy, especially if we make as many changes as I imagine the manager is planning, but ultimately it is a match that we should have enough to win irrespective of who plays. That is good news. Whilst there is a tendency from some quarters to mock the League Cup, I can’t think of a single occasion on which people haven’t enjoyed seeing their team lift a trophy. The League Cup isn’t as prestigious as the FA Cup and there is no question that the fact that the semi-finals are still over two-legs is wild, this season more than most, but lifting silverware isn’t to be sniffed at. Aside from anything else, we know that we are not going to be part of the conversation to win the Premier League, so having one more thing to look forward to in the new year can only be seen as a good thing. We are well-positioned to put ourselves through to the next round and should be taking that seriously.

Progressing into round four isn’t the same as winning it, that goes without saying. We need to be able to move forward to have any hope of winning it, though. That’s basic, of course, but it sometimes needs saying. People enjoy winning silverware but don’t always think about the journey that clubs need to take to do so. The early rounds of cups aren’t ‘sexy’, but they’re crucial to the actual winning of them. Aside from anything else, they can provide clubs with some much needed momentum. Right now, Liverpool’s confidence is fragile and there’s no question that we could do with knowing that we’ve still got plenty to play for after the World Cup. Not only that, but the Reds desperately need to avoid a situation in which we’ve been knocked out of the League Cup by a League One side, when playing at home. Win this and the possible downsides of progression in the cup, such as the associated fatigue, can be worried about further down the line when we’re hopefully in a more positive position in general.

Dropped Points To Saints Would Be Disastrous

After back-to-back Premier League defeats to Nottingham Forest and Leeds United, it was crucial for the Reds to get back to winning ways against Tottenham. Just as the win over City proved pointless when we lost to the two teams in the relegation zone, however, it is difficult to see what good a win over Spurs does us if we then immediately drop points to Southampton. The Saints have, in fairness, being playing quite well this season. The sacking of Ralph Hasenhüttl might give people the impression that they’ve been awful, as could their position in the relegation zone. They’re in better form than Everton and West Ham, though, and have enjoyed some decent wins against the likes of Leicester City and Chelsea earlier in the campaign. They even drew 1-1 with the league leaders just three matches ago, so it certainly doesn’t feel as if the players have stopped playing for the manager. What I’m saying is that they aren’t as bad as we might imagine, albeit they’re also not amazing.

The one thing that Liverpool can’t afford to be against them is complacent, given the fact that anything other than a full-blooded attack of them could see us drop points as we have against statistically worse opponents already this season. It is crucial that we head into the World Cup on a high, which we won’t do if we give them any hope whatsoever. The good news for the Reds is that ‘new manager bounce’ isn’t really a real thing. That being said, Liverpool haven’t needed a club to get a new manager to find ways to give them three points so far this season. In truth, what we need to do more than anything else is ensure that both players and supporters don’t spend the next month and a half stewing in the misery of yet more points dropped to inferior opposition, but instead dreaming of what some new arrivals in January could do for our morale. We are not too far off top four if we win our game in hand, but the last thing we want to do is slip further away. It’s a massive game.

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