A very close friend of mine from primary school days is a huge Arsenal fan, and while the Gunners’ rivalry with Liverpool is not exactly toxic, it hasn’t stopped us from bickering about football over the years.
One thing I have often ridiculed him for is the sheer hysterical nature of Arsenal supporters. In their eyes, they are either on the verge of dominating English football or on their way to the darkest period in the club’s history. There’s never any middle ground.
I’m surely not alone in mocking them, and those ‘ArsenalFanTV’ videos are often as compulsive viewing on a Saturday night as Gladiators, Blind Date and Noel’s House Party were in the 1990s.
Unfortunately, however, this overwrought, negative mindset has crept into the Liverpool fanbase at an alarming rate in recent times, and it was once again on display over the weekend.
The Reds’ 0-0 draw at Southampton may have been a little frustrating, and not the most earth-shattering 90 minutes we have witnessed, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a more than adequate point.
We knew that it would be a difficult afternoon against Claude Puel’s superbly-drilled team, with the international break sapping the energy levels of Liverpool’s devastating attacking of Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, and causing an injury to Adam Lallana.
It was chucking it down with rain, the match wasn’t on the telly – I always feel less confident if the Reds aren’t on the telly – and Southampton have been something of a bogey team for Liverpool down the years. Who else remembers blowing a three-goal lead at The Dell in August 2000? Or John Arne Riise’s own goal at St Mary’s 17 months later?
There was every chance that points would be dropped on Saturday, and while the likes of Coutinho, Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne will be cursing themselves for missing big chances in the second-half, a share of the spoils was not remotely disastrous.
The reaction of some, however, would make you think Liverpool had performed woefully and lost at home to Hull City on the final day of the season, when a draw would have clinched the title.
Some were genuinely writing off the Reds’ chance of glory in 2016/17, which is so ridiculous it makes you wonder if they are simply partaking in some world-class trolling. Either that or they lost their sanity a long time ago.
It is as if title-winning teams of the past won every single match in a 38-game season. Guess what? They didn’t.
Manchester United were beaten 5-0, 6-3 and 2-1 consecutively in 1996/97, by Newcastle, Southampton and Chelsea, and eventually won the league by seven points’ Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ may have gone the entire 2003/04 campaign unbeaten, but they still drew 12 matches; Chelsea and Man City have both had blips in ultimately triumphant seasons.
Even Liverpool’s wonderful sides of the 1970s and 1980s didn’t always have things their own way, which is exactly to be expected in a league as tough as England’s top flight.
The thought of this current Liverpool outfit suffering the results that United suffered 20 years ago doesn’t ever bear thinking about. People would be calling for Jurgen Klopp’s head, and life in the Championship would be imminent in their eyes.
In an ideal world, the Reds would have strutted onto the St Mary’s turf and walked away with all three points, but it wasn’t meant to be. They still played well, bossed the game and barely allowed a dangerous Saints side a single chance.
These are the games Liverpool have so often lost in the past, especially after an international break, so there were clear positives to take. Southampton were half expected to enjoy spells of dominance, but that never came close to materialising.
It is absolutely fine to be disappointed about Liverpool not winning a football match, but if there is no rational thinking added to that disappointment, it is hard to take your opinion seriously.
This is going to be the most exciting title race in Premier League history, and along the way, we are going to suffer some glorious wins, sufficient draws and weekend-ruining losses. So are our rivals, and that’s simply the way it is.
It may not be the best league in Europe, in terms of quality, but it remains the most competitive and tricky division to win. Liverpool have been a joy to watch this season, but to expect them to steamroller opponents every week is naivety of the highest order.
Of course, it will be grim if David Moyes’ Sunderland side visit Anfield on Saturday and spring a surprise, but it should not cause an unbearable level of meltdown if it happens. The impatience of the modern football supporter is beyond belief, and the negativity that surrounds just one slip-up is helpful to nobody.
Klopp has improved so many things at Anfield since his arrival, and while he has ensured a large number of supporters are now pulling in the same direction, a select few are still doing their best to buck the trend.
Draws away from home against top-half sides never used to be seen as damaging, and nothing has changed in that respect. A win at Southampton would’ve been superb, but taking everything into account, Liverpool should feel content with their efforts.
It is far too early to be making assumptions about whether or not the Reds will win the league this season, but can’t we just revel in the fact that they are in the mix in late November? Let’s not forget, many pundits and fans thought even a top-four challenge would be unlikely in 2016/17.
Take a look at how embarrassing you find the behaviour of many Arsenal fans, and remind yourself that you never want to be like that.
Some Liverpool supporters have already reached that stage, sadly.