Tony Evans: ‘Who Will Blink First? That’s the Big Question’

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Liverpool’s Premier League Challenge: Eyeing an Eight-Point Lead

This weekend gives Liverpool a chance to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to eight points. Manchester City don’t play until Monday night and have a tricky fixture away to Brentford.

Of course, that scenario requires Jurgen Klopp’s men to win away at the Emirates against an Arsenal team that thinks they’ve outplayed us twice this season. Well, they did – but in very short spells. Overall, Liverpool deserved the point in the 1-1 draw at Anfield and the 2-0 victory in the FA Cup.

Photo: IMAGO

Klopp’s Departure and Liverpool’s Resolve

This was always going to be a testing week after Klopp announced his departure at the end of the season. Things could have unravelled very quickly – and still could. Chelsea and Arsenal back-to-back make for an awkward pair of games.

Yet the manner in which Chelsea were dispatched was impressive. Mauricio Pochettino’s team barely laid a glove on Liverpool. The focus in the two matches since Klopp’s bombshell has been brilliant.

The Core of Liverpool’s Strength

The thing Jurgen was least worried about before he made his intentions public was the team. That’s in part because there’s a core of experienced heavy hitters – Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mo Salah – and a clutch of ambitious newcomers and kids who are desperate to play in the Champions League next season.

Klopp thinks this group is on the verge of winning trophies. In some ways this made his decision harder, in others easier. He is leaving the cupboard fully stocked.

The other interesting thing is that in the first half of the season, Klopp’s management skills have reached new heights. Someone close to him suggested that this, too, may have played a part in his thinking. He feels that he’s at his absolute peak and may never get better.

The more you hear about the way he’s gone about things, the more you realise what a complex and fascinating individual we have as manager. It would be something else to send him off with a title-winning party.

Photo: IMAGO

Addressing Uncertainties and Contract Extensions

That doesn’t mean there aren’t big questions to be answered. Van Dijk responded to one after the Norwich game when he said he doesn’t know whether he’ll be at Anfield for the post-Klopp era.

Those who are getting het up about it – blaming journalists and pretending players don’t think like this – are delusional. The captain is concerned. Footballers hate uncertainty. It is a problem.

Van Dijk, Salah and TAA will be mulling over their options. Much will depend on who comes in as manager. Most of the likely candidates will appeal to the players.

The other question is whether FSG are prepared to provide the wages Salah and Van Dijk require to sign an extension. Given they will be 33 and 34 respectively in the summer of 2025, this may become a problem, especially as the squad has developed massively this season.

There will be hysteria if either is allowed to leave but any savings will go back into the pot to be used in the hunt for replacements.

One thing is certain. FSG will move heaven and earth to get Alexander-Arnold to stay. He’s only 25 and already a genuine superstar who will get better.

Even if Klopp had stayed, there would have been serious discussions about whether to extend Van Dijk and Salah. That’s the way Fenway work and it’s worked for them – at least during Klopp’s tenure. The new manager will have to operate within their boundaries, too.

The Global Impact of Liverpool FC

Most of the emails that arrive in my public inbox are anonymous abuse (Evertonians or Mancs, generally, calling me all kinds of ****s). Or they sign me up to The Sun, gay websites, or ‘make your penis bigger’ scams. Occasionally, an email will drop in that makes me understand the meaning of the club for overseas supporters.

One last week came from a Bengali fan. He got his love of Liverpool from his father, whose life had been difficult, to say the least.

His dad was a refugee from India during the Bangladesh Liberation war in 1971. Barely a teenager, “stricken with insomnia, he would listen to the radio at night, which carried commentary of Liverpool games. The only thing my father ever mentions about the war is the Liverpool line-ups and games of the 1970-1971 and 1971-1972 seasons.”

In such nightmarish surroundings, football brought this man succour and instilled a lifelong love of LFC. The impact on the individual and his family was profound.

These are the first seasons I remember with real clarity. To think, when I was at Anfield heading towards my teenage years, there was a kid of a similar age some 5,000 miles away in a warzone taking solace from the performances of Bill Shankly’s reds.

The origin stories of our global supporters are fascinating and sometimes awe-inspiring. I was lucky to be born where I was and into the football culture of Liverpool. But never, ever, do I think people like those mentioned in this email are lesser types of fan. I found the whole thing very humbling. Up the global reds.

Photo by IMAGO

Darwin Nunez: A Source of Comedy and Promise

Do I have to write about Darwin Nunez again? Someone close to the club said to me this week “he shoots but doesn’t finish.” That was an astute comment. The person who said it wasn’t slagging him off, by the way.

Hitting the woodwork four times in one game – a Premier League record – is a new level of comedy from our boy. Is he trolling us? However, at some point some of these shots will go in. Well, at least the odd one or two.

The attack looks so much better with Nunez in it, though, whether he scores or not. Especially when Salah isn’t there. I’m not complaining too much about him.

Reflecting on Liverpool’s Immediate Future

Life before life after Klopp’s been alright so far. Long may it continue.

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