Slapstick Simon: an Anfield Thriller
“I enjoyed this game. I enjoyed this atmosphere with my whole body. Thank you.” – Jurgen Klopp
2 balls dropped. 2 points lost. Simon Mignolet is back.
Rumours of a new deal for the Liverpool Number 1 have surely been put on hold after another woeful display at Anfield. After public praise from Jurgen Klopp for his “quality” and “intelligence”, Mignolet showed neither in a calamitous performance that is sure to force FSG’s hand closer to the chequebook. Producing two defensive errors that both led to goals, no player in the Premier League has committed more in the last 3 seasons than Simon Mignolet.
After putting the Reds 1-0 up in the 21st minute, Liverpool fans would have been forgiven for thinking this would be a good day at the office. Amassing close to 80% possession with numerous shots attempted, Liverpool were in complete control. And yet only 9 minutes later, fans were struck by a familiar feeling: resignation. A cruel joke being played on repeat again, and again and again.
Liverpool continued to dominate the game after half-time, but produced few clear-cut chances. Benteke was again awful, even if he did show more energy and desire than previously shown. But squalor was costly once more as Jonas Olsson took the lead after bagging himself another cheap goal from the perennial cheap free-kick.
What followed, however, was not part of the script…
Just a few months ago Liverpool would have lost this game. Not anymore.
Klopp took the courageous decision to substitute Coutinho in the 72nd minute, bringing on the comparatively inexperienced and ineffective Jordan Ibe… but ineffective he was not.
Dribbling his way across the pitch he found his footing easily. Dictating the pace of the game and orchestrating attacks, Jordan Ibe excelled. And when 19-year old Divock Origi came on for the injured Dejan Lovren, the message was clear: there’s still time.
Klopp had preached ad infinitum about not giving-up. The game is never over until the final whistle. And yet, in this game, something was different. In this game, the pulpit was thrown into the mosh-pit of a relentless Liverpool attacking display. As Origi smashed a 96th minute equaliser into the top-corner, Anfield erupted. This was justice. Justice for the disallowed penalty, anti-football philosophy and blatant mediocrity of a Tony Pulis team. And justice also for the blunders at the back that have plagued our consciousness for too long.
Yes, fans had started to leave. Yes, Anfield was tense. But make no mistake. This was a far-cry from the Crystal Palace game just four weeks ago. There was – despite hopelessness – despite familiarity – an underlying sense of belief. Something was going to happen. Not because it should. But because we wanted it to.
At the final whistle, fans, players and coaching staff alike knew that this was 2 points lost… But it didn’t feel like it.
Where are we now?
“I know it’s only 1 point but it felt like 3. This moment was an explosion and it’s the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here.” – Jurgen Klopp
Dropping 2 points against West Brom is never going to do anything for turning the Liverpool fan-base from “doubters to believers.” But, just maybe, Jurgen himself is turning. Beating Chelsea 3-1, Man City 4-1, Southampton 6-1; these results seem almost trivial to the manager. The real proof – the real mission – that Jurgen is here for is this: taking a situation beyond hope. Beyond belief. And changing the reality for ourselves.
We started this game 9 points off 1st. We finish the weekend still 9 points off 1st, depending on the Chelsea vs Leicester result. It is not too inconceivable that, come Sunday, 20th December, Liverpool could be 6 points off the top of the Premier League table.
It is this attitude that we – not just as fans – but as a Club, are learning. And it is this attitude which we can start to have belief in.
Dropping 2 points against West Brom was the real beginning of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool journey and, just as Jurgen’s Christmas dinners are not optional… he’s dragging us along with him.