Welcome To The New Year – Same As The Old One

John Lennon once sang ‘another year over, a new one just begun’. Whilst that’s technically true insomuch as 2019 has turned into 2020, for Liverpool Football Club it seems to be little more than a continuation of what’s gone before. Against Sheffield United the Reds were imperious without ever really getting out of second gear. The Blades looked tired, which is something that I think it’s fair to acknowledge on the back of a busy Christmas period for them that they aren’t yet used to having to deal with. Yet we made them look absolutely ordinary when they’ve shown this season that they’re anything but. As Chris Wilder said in his interview with BT Sport after the match, they couldn’t lay a glove on us. It’s as if we saw what they could do when we went to Bramall Lane and then adjusted our game accordingly, removing all hope and ability to play football from them at a time of year when they were already exhausted.

Whilst fans of our rivals go around making up weird excuses for our success, including accusations of drug cheating and suggestions that the Football Association actively wants us to win and are therefore using the Video Assistant Referee to do so, the players are calmly just going about being the best on the planet at what they do. We’ll drop points before the season is over, that much is for certain; after all, no club in the history of the game has gone an entire campaign with thirty-seven wins and just the single draw. Yet it’s not immediately clear where those points will be dropped and if we’re able to do what we’ve just done against a decent Sheffield United team on the back of a busy Christmas period and with a shed load of injuries then who knows what our limit will be? Certainly no team will be overly excited about playing against us in the coming months, even if they’ll all have their own plans about taking points from us.

A Perfectly Boring Match

Refer to a football match as boring and many people will think that you’re saying it as an insult. I certainly have no such intention when I say that last night’s match was perfectly boring, with ‘perfectly’ being the operative word. Liverpool barely had to get out of second gear and yet still kept Chris Wilder’s side at arm’s length. I didn’t really know what Sheffield United’s plan to score was, though it’s fair to say that whatever plan they had will have gone out of the window when we scored after four minutes. It almost felt as if the ball hitting the back of the net so early on kick-started their decision to give up and play within themselves, knowing they wouldn’t be able to break us down enough to score. The game was played out at the pace that Liverpool wanted it played out at and the Blades could be nothing more than willing accomplices to that fact. Around me on the Kop, that led to many different amusing observations being made.

My mate Matt, who I went to the game with, was telling me and the others we stand with about how the last time he was there he had dog poo bags in his pocket & the steward asked him what they were for. Matt simply told him the obvious: that they were for picking up dog poo. The steward said, “As long as you’re not going to fill them with water and throw them on the pitch”. Has there been a spate of that happening at Premier League games that I’m unaware of that caused the steward to be so spooked about the possibility? That’s the sort of thing I’m referring to when I say that the Kop was engaged in making interesting observations in order to entertain itself whilst the football played out in front of us. Normally I’m critical of people that don’t engage in singing and cheering on the team during matches, but we’ve become so confident in these players now that the match was never going to go any other way once we’d scored.

Jordan Henderson. That’s The Headline

Anyone who has ever read any of my work will know how much I love Jordan Henderson. I’ve always been a big fan of his and completely dumbfounded by people who don’t want to give him the credit he so richly deserves, even if I’m also happy to acknowledge that he’s not even close to being the best midfielder Liverpool have had. Steven Gerrard was a once in a generation player who was utterly sublime at what he did, so comparing the two in terms of their ability is ridiculous. Yet I also feel that there’s a good argument to be made that Henderson is a better captain. Aside from anything else, he is utterly selfless and gives his all to be the player that is able to facilitate the more skilful lads in the squad. He’s a genuine joy to watch when he’s at his best and I think he’s currently in the best form he’s ever been in for the Reds. When you consider how instrumental he was in our title challenge in 2013-2014, that’s really saying something.

If you can watch the captain’s performance against Sheffield United and still think that he’s not a good player then there really is no hope for you. At the end of a gruelling period of fixtures in which he’s been an almost ever-present figure, our number fourteen didn’t stop running, pressing and harassing the opposition. He was on the edge of the box putting a decent cross in one minute, then back shutting down their attack the next. There was a moment deep into the second-half when the Blades players almost seemed to turn to him with an exasperated look on their faces, refusing to believe he could still be running so late in the game. The greatest compliment that he can be paid is that no one is even talking about Fabinho’s absence from the starting eleven, despite the fact that he’s one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. Henderson seems to be more desperate than anyone to win the title. That’s a very good thing.

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