Normally, Latest News is your one-stop-shop for positivity and hopeful analysis of the efforts of Liverpool Football Club. This morning, however, in the immediate wake of what was a fairly limp and apathetic capitulation to an average Southampton side, there is little of a constructive nature to be said. It was a horror show of possession-based impotence.
Exactly what the hell has become of this Liverpool team? Is there a quiet detachment in the manager’s sideline demeanour in recent weeks? Does Jürgen Klopp feel the challenge is beyond this group? Is he being stifled by a lack of funds he cannot publicise? Has he blundered in his managing of the squad? Did he really just blame the wind?
For the answers to those questions, gentle reader, you must look elsewhere. This, to paraphrase Obi Wan Kenobi, is not the column you’re looking for.
Losing a semi final is a wretched experience. Latest News was once on the 5th penalty in a shoot-out at the end of a comparatively important schoolboy game a few millennia ago. My fellow chosen ones were so awful, that my spot kick was unnecessary. The feeling of powerlessness, of injustice, of regret is still savagely raw to this day. Losing is awful. Losing a semi-final is the worst. THE WORST.
In the world of big-boy football one assumes those feelings are exacerbated. However, if you were expecting the German gaffer to suddenly become morose and downbeat, I’m afraid you were mistaken. This was the first semi-final loss of his career, a statistic he will not be relishing one bit, but there was no admission of defeat and no players were thrown under the bus in the manner of so many other top flight managers.
“Against a side like Southampton playing like this, creating these big chances is really difficult but we did it,” insisted Klopp, in a stunning example of accentuating the positive. “We all know, usually we score in situations like this, but we didn’t and that’s what we have to accept. It doesn’t say anything about the performance, it only says everything about the result. We are out and we have to accept it. For me as a coach, it is very important to know about the performance and I will not ignore this, but in this moment I am of course disappointed because we would have deserved to win the game tonight. If this would have been enough [to go through to the final], I have no idea. We have to congratulate Southampton and we wish them all the best.”
To trophy hungry fans, the efforts of the team were not acceptable. There is a whole spectrum of reaction out there, ranging from those who are slightly miffed at being out of contention for a pot to those whose apoplectic rage fit will see them spend much of today in IKEA replacing the household furniture they smashed last night. Klopp, as one might expect, does not see a performance that was bad enough to warrant such ire.
“The performance was absolutely OK – we created the chances,” he offered, causing still more heads to explode. “Now everybody wants to say, ‘but you didn’t score’ and that’s right, absolutely right. But for me as a coach, it is very important the way we choose to create chances and that was absolutely OK. The first half was not bad, but it was quite a test, similar to Swansea – dominant, dominant, dominant but no goal. We didn’t lose our nerve,we stuck to our usual plan, did a little bit better in one or two moments [in the second half] and immediately we had bigger chances.”
If there was ever a phrase that succinctly sums up the Liverpool we have seen this last six weeks, it is, “dominant, dominant, dominant but no goal.” With that, Latest News will leave you for this first communiqué of the day. We feel “absolutely OK,” honestly.