Winning Ugly Is A Sign Of….?

Twitter is never somewhere you should look for reasoned, sensible opinions. I try as hard as I can to give nuanced, balanced opinions as much as possible, but even I get told off every now and again by a follower or two for saying something viewed as ‘outrageous’. Last week someone told me that they were unfollowing me because I made a joke about Naby Keita’s fitness. Yet even with that in mind I’m surprised by the reaction from some to yesterday’s win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Trips to London have never been easy, though they’re slightly easier now that peak José Mourinho is no longer there. That this trip came on the back of an intense visit to Napoli in the Champions League made me think that the players would be given a degree of forgiveness by most people, but that was obviously wishful thinking.

We were poor in the second-half, don’t get me wrong. I thought Mo Salah had maybe his worst game for us and Roberto Firmino, who is probably my favourite Liverpool player, seemingly forgot how to pass the ball. Yet I spent my adult life being told that winning ugly was a sign of champions, watching Manchester United pick up three points after appalling displays all around the country. The reality is that you some times have to dig deep to find performances that ensure you take home the points, even if the manner in which you’ve played doesn’t merit it. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s thunderous free-kick might have been met as though it was a death in the family by Martin Tyler, but to me it was a sign that Jürgen Klopp’s team keeps working on things, growing and developing. What does yesterday’s result mean in theory?

Last Season Wasn’t A Flash In The Pan

There are never any guarantees in football. Right now we’re riding a wave of success in the Premier League, having not lost a game since last January. When we do eventually lose a game, and we will at some point, who knows how the team will react. Will that air of invincibility fall away and we’ll lose a couple in a row? It’s possible. Yet the one thing we can say with a degree of certainty is that last season wasn’t just a fluke. Many pundits and commentators said that just missing out on the title by a single point would be crushing for the players and that we’d struggle to hit the same heights this time around. Obviously that isn’t the case. Perhaps we were buoyed by our Champions League win, giving the players a taste of what winning the biggest trophies feels like, but the important thing is that we haven’t even looked like crumbling.

This team is remarkably talented. It isn’t just the skill and ability of the players, though obviously that matters. It’s the manner in which they can think through situations as they’re in them, working together to do what’s right. That is best summed up by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s admission that the free-kick wasn’t one that they have worked on in training but rather just one that the three players involved discussed between them. Jordan Henderson originally wanted it but then realised that it was too close to the wall, so Trent asked Salah to roll the ball a touch in order to open up the angle. That’s brilliant teamwork from the lads, with egos taking a backseat to a desire to win. It’s a sign that they’re growing, not being cowed by a rampant Manchester City side or allowing themselves to feel disappointed that they missed out on the title last time out.

Klopp’s Not Kidding When He Talks About Mentality Monsters

It was in April of 2019 when Jürgen Klopp described his side as ‘f*cking mentality monsters’ in the wake of their hard-fought win over Southampton. It was an apt description at the time, but it has become even more fitting as the months have worn on. Whether it be recovering from 3-0 down to Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League last season or holding on against Chelsea in tough circumstances this weekend, this team is one that knows how to dig deep and get a result over the line when it matters. It really doesn’t feel as though there is any setback that these lads won’t be able to take in their stride. Just look at the goalkeeper. If you’d have asked me last season who the most important player is I wouldn’t have said Virgil van Dijk, as most people would have, but Alisson Becker. That’s because I thought he was just so much better than Simon Mignolet, who has held this team back for far too long.

I’m convinced that if had been the Belgian running on to replace Brazil’s number 1 in the Norwich City game then half of the Anfield crowd would have left and our title challenge would have been over there and then. Instead Adrián has come in, done an excellent job and the team hasn’t looked like it’s missed Alisson at all. I don’t want to find out, but the form of Joel Matip since Joe Gomez’s injury last season means that any van Dijk absence will probably be coped with just as well by the team. These lads aren’t messing around. They want the title and they’re willing to dig as deep as possible to get it. There’s a long way to go and we’re just as capable of throwing in a loss to a team like Norwich as Pep Guardiola’s team is, but we’ve got the mentality to bounce back now in a way that we didn’t have in the past. We truly have turned from doubters to believers, aided by this side being an absolute pleasure to watch play its football.

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