I don’t want to dwell too much on the ins and outs of the game yesterday against Bournemouth. In fact, I don’t think I can dwell on it. To try to apply logic to such a chaotic game would be fruitless. It was a very bad day at the office, and incredibly difficult to stomach.
The biggest kicker for me was that it showed we may still be struggling to rid ourselves of certain demons that have haunted us in the past. Remember back at the start of the season when we won against Arsenal, and everyone said, ‘Wouldn’t it be just typical Liverpool to beat Arsenal and then go and lose to Burnley?’ Which, of course, was a prediction that did indeed then come to pass.
Not that it should matter to us much what anyone else thinks. If none of the bookies, pundits, or other teams’ fans want to back us strongly to win the league, it’s less pressure and attention on us and allows us to fly under the radar a bit. But when we get these bizarre, frustrating results, you have to wonder if it ever has even the most marginal effect on certain players. You’d hope not, especially given how we are constantly told what a mature, professional, committed group we have. But if they keep hearing again and again how there’s some sort of mystic jinx on the club that holds us back, you can’t help but wonder if a pessimistic attitude ever sets in.
Which is why the most impressive thing after the Burnley defeat was how we bounced back. It was an unfortunate three points dropped, a minor setback, but we picked ourselves up and paid no notice to the ‘now watch Liverpool crumble’ comments. We went on a great run, claimed victories against an array of teams offering different challenges, and were only halted by three relatively respectable draws.
The run was always going to come to an end. That much was inevitable. And with injuries mounting up, and the infamous Christmas schedule approaching, you did get the feeling it was coming sooner rather than later. But it was truly gutting to end the way it did. Because now all the same, tired, old questions are being asked, just with an added dose of ‘evidence’ that we’re a team that you can never trust to get over the finish line – no matter how close it may be, and how simple a task it may seem.
How does a team fighting for the title lose to Bournemouth when 3-1 up with 15 minutes left? Is it the quality of our side? The mentality? The bottle? Just bad luck? Whatever you put it down to, it’s a question that certain people are now going to be asking every single game, no matter what the score is, until the final whistle is blown and the three points are officially in the bag. Can they see this one through to the end, or will they ‘do a Liverpool’ and blow it again? Opponents will always feel they’re in with a chance against us, no matter how much the odds may be stacked against them.
The cruel thing is it has only taken this one game to suddenly bring all of this negativity back. We’ve just been on a 15 game run of brilliant results, but one slip-up and we’re the laughing stock of the league again. The players need to rally together and do whatever they did after the Burnley match to prove that these games are the anomalies and the real Liverpool is the one swatting teams aside ruthlessly.
Jürgen Klopp has been adamant that the fans need to do their bit for the team as well, by generating the best possible atmosphere and always getting behind the players. However, that can be much easier said than done. It isn’t the simplest task to stay unequivocally positive when you’re watching us and constantly relating to the times we were in similar positions but capitulated. But what we, like the players, need to do is extinguish this attitude of ‘why always us?’ if it ever crops up again. We’ve seeing what that self-centred attitude can do to a player, so there’s no need for us to impose it on our entire team.
Before the Sunderland game last Saturday, I talked to a fan who said he could see the match being a banana skin for us. Not because Sunderland were better than us. Not because they had better tactics. Or the better manager. Or were in better form. His reasoning was simply that it wouldn’t surprise him if we lost, as it would be ‘classic Liverpool.’
I saw where he was coming from, and he probably said the same thing to another fan this weekend about the Bournemouth game and was proven absolutely right. But we fought through a hard battle against Sunderland and eventually came out on top. We’d missed chance after chance against Southampton, but they never hit us with a sucker-punch that the guy was probably anticipating. We annihilated Watford 6-1. We had setbacks against Crystal Palace, but dug deep for the win. We bounced back against Swansea to claim the three points. And with only one goal in it in games away to Arsenal and Chelsea, we kept them at bay and held on for the victory. Why was none of that ‘classic Liverpool’?
The manner of the loss yesterday made it seem so much worse than it actually was. But there’s no reason why we can’t show the same reaction to it as we did the Burnley defeat. We brush ourselves off, and we move on. Because if ‘classic Liverpool’ only shows up once everyone 15 games, I think this modern, new-fangled Liverpool can have a very successful season indeed.