Sometimes things just pan out, don’t they? This morning, as Latest News queued for coffee, the friendly gent who runs the shop offered complimentary ciabatta to your correspondent. A glorious breakfast ensued. Later, whilst scanning the news on Planet Liverpool and quite literally ruminating, there came another moment of serendipity.
Following this column’s recent lamentations about Redmen saying things that are probably best left unsaid until the season’s over and a genuine goal has been achieved, BEHOLD – a Redman saying things that are probably best left unsaid until the season’s over and a genuine goal has been achieved. Sound, free bread and a column that writes itself. Happy Friday!
Georginio Wijnaldum, for it was he doing the saying of things, has always seemed a remarkably affable gent – polite and comparatively demure in comparison to some of the brash sorts one finds around the Barclay’s Premier League and environs. No doubt that is an accurate assessment of Liverpool’s Dutch midfielder, a man whose megawatt smile has been seen on some key occasions over the season to date, having made some telling contributions to big matches.
It’s not that what follows is somehow a character assassination of a player Latest News has grown incredibly fond of. It’s simply an examination of how I wish our players would stop talking about EVERYTHING. I want them to be bland, anodyne, dour and victorious. Later, when, trophies are in the cabinet or Champions League participation is assured, they can be as garrulous, boorish and gloating as they like, and I’ll love it.
At any rate, to the point: Wijnaldum has been on the receiving end of some utterly nonsensical criticism from the more ghoulish element of the Liverpool fan conglomerate. His major failing, it seems, is to be ineffective, invisible. ‘What does he do?’ is the polite version of the carping most commonly seen. Now, as is often the way, these criticisms may have more than a kernel of justification but are taken so far as to be rendered ineffective by their extremity.
It is probably understandable then, that his fine performances, when they have come, have left the man they call ‘Gini’ feeling very vindicated indeed. It would also be understandable if he were to have the inclination to voice his indignation. However, in the grand tradition of humility, with which Liverpool Football Club is synonymous, one would also expect him to check that impulse, at least until in a position of strength – like, say, having earned Tuesday and Wednesday night jaunts abroad with his chums next season.
Wijnaldum, however, bit back at those accusing him of being a fair-weather performer who shrinks when his team are away from home, insisting that the abuse is unjustified and should, at the very least, be shared with his teammates.
“I think I also play good in away games, especially this season,” the number five insisted. “It is funny because last season we didn’t perform at a level as a whole team in away games for Newcastle but I was the only one who got the complaints. It is a team thing and no-one can do it by themselves. People expect more from you than other players but we have to be realistic. If a whole team doesn’t perform you cannot pick one player especially and say: ‘He doesn’t do this or do that’. It is a fault of the whole team if you don’t deliver.”
If you thought that was the extent of this scribbler’s reason for unease, then you’d be mistaken. Ahead of the Burnley game, many have indulged in the justifiable whinge that after turning Arsenal over, the Reds would probably cave-in to the comparative minnows that Sean Dyche will bring to Anfield. It’s a fear that the team’s wild inconsistency has made eminently valid.
It is one thing, however, for us fans to speak about ‘big’ and ‘small’ clubs. It is quite another for Liverpool’s players to do the same, particularly in advance of playing the very club they have deemed ‘small’ – the very club that could conceivably do the double over Jürgen Klopp’s men. Maybe it’s excessively harsh to quibble about the terminology used by a non-native speaker, but the following just sets my teeth on edge:
“I think we must bring the same we bring against the bigger teams,” Wijnaldum averred. “If you look at the difference in the games between the bigger and smaller teams, the difference in concentration and being passive is big. Of course, you can never guarantee you will win but you have more chance if you play against the small teams like you play the big ones. It is never guaranteed the next game will be an easy game. You have to work hard, give 100% and fight for the points. We must have the same concentration we have now against the bigger teams, otherwise, it will be difficult. We would make it easier if we also did it against the smaller teams.”
On Sunday, Latest News will watch with the usual mixture of excitement and trepidation that has characterised the experience of following Klopp’s Reds this season. We will all hope to see a victory that will make more of a statement than any of the wins against the top six and this writer will hope that afterwards, the interviews will be as bland and uncontroversial as hell. That has always been the Liverpool way.