There’s nothing out there in the various podcasts, social media sphere, online articles, etc. that has not already been said about Liverpool’s recent stretch of mediocre performances. Like others, I detect the range of emotions expressed by Liverpool supporters. Truth be told, there are times I want to believe those who espouse the view that we’re doing reasonably well under the circumstances and we’re only 1 or 2 or 3 points away from such and such a place on the table, etc. – and that we’ve been a top four contending team.
But I can’t.
I just can’t anymore as I feel I’m buying into a false narrative that every bone in my being tells me is not true. Now I realise there are all sorts of explanations and interpretations folks who insist on the aforementioned narrative could marshal to convince us.
And lest I be misinterpreted, before I go any further, I should note that my thoughts are not merely about the perpetual debate between us Reds who are seemingly simplistically lumped as the optimistic vs the pessimistic ones.
I cannot subscribe to the view anymore that we have a strong squad of players who have the chemistry, psychology, and tactical nuance to play together consistently well as a unit. By “consistently well” I mean the team we put out there each game is able to execute its game plan – and preferably win. That, by any account, is not what Liverpool have been this year.
It is not a pessimistic assessment of our dilemma, it is my candid acknowledgement. Nor is it because I want to be pessimistic; it is, as I said, an acknowledgement of what I observe. I cannot tell myself anymore, that if only we were not unlucky today with (fill in your example), or if only the referee had (again, fill in your preferred example), or … You get the point.
Then I ask myself, when I look at the way Spurs, and the two Manchester teams are playing, and the fact is, their fans could also (conveniently, if necessary) point to each game and pick out a handful of instances where they had “luck” or some referee or player decision went their way, they may have scored even more goals or won more convincingly!
But yet, those teams are playing with more consistency as a unit, and the chemistry and intensity they play with is evident for all to see. Mind you, they all also have players who are injured, rotated, “not in form,” etc. Yet, they are consistently playing as a coherent unit.
Then, there’s the psychological bit. Unlike Liverpool, the current top three teams are psychologically far more adept at coping and adjusting to moments of adversity on the pitch and, dare I say, are tactically more nuanced.
That psychological fragility in the Liverpool side is there for all to see – and it’s been seemingly baked into the collective psyche of the squad for a while now – even before Jurgen arrived. Of course, there’s no need to labor this point, which we see in regular frequency in defence and the midfield. Even when we do seem, in the rare instance, to show some steel in a particular game, quite predictably, the defence (and midfield) tends to revert to its old self in due course: as if it’s reverting to the norm for what should be a given about a Liverpool team (with the occasional exceptional performance by a particular individual notwithstanding).
To this, I’ll add one other observation: I’m convinced our team lacks a convincing spine. Again while we can all single out specific individuals for criticism, more critically, we fundamentally lack a spine comprising of a domineering centre-half and a commanding midfielder – with the footballing acumen – to manage the game for the team.
As a supporter, I’ve become numb by the sheer blandness and predictability of our mediocrity. The absence of energy, intensity in the play, only amplifies the lack of chemistry among the players. It seems all too formulaic yet pedestrian.