Tony Evans: ‘No margin for error in title race’

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Liverpool’s Title Race: No Room for Error After Arsenal Defeat

Dispiriting Loss at Arsenal

The defeat away to Arsenal was dispiriting. Last week, the question was, who would blink first? We got the answer.

Now, there is absolutely no margin for error in the title race. I know you can say “We would have taken top of the league in February if it had been on offer before the season.” Hell, I’ve said it. Plenty of times.

But it’s bullshit, isn’t it? When you get there, you want to stay there. You want to stretch the lead. You want every point available.

Photo by IMAGO

Underperformance at the Emirates

There were quite a few in the team at the Emirates who let themselves down. Everyone is entitled to a bad day but the psychology of collective underperformance is a concern. Even Alexis Mac Allister, who was universally considered Liverpool’s best player, was poor. He shot from daft positions and was bypassed horribly, especially late in the game. Even so, the Argentinian was head and shoulders above some of his team-mates.

Impact of Klopp’s Departure

Arsenal are not that good. This is no time for panic. In a normal season, you’d just file the performance at the Emirates under ‘pile of shite’ and move on. But Jurgen Klopp’s decision to leave at the end of the campaign changed the dynamic. Uncertainty, like confidence, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The coming weeks will be one of the deepest tests of Klopp’s powers of motivation. The main onus of pushing the side forward, however, could well fall on the senior players.

The game ran beyond Liverpool because of mistakes by Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. These are the two transformative individuals of the Klopp era. They will have to carry a lot of weight in the coming months.

Real Test Begins

There are 15 league games to go. Suddenly, it feels like the first 23 matches of the campaign have been a phoney war. Things just got real. We’re about to find out whether the Reds are the real thing. I think they are.

Photo by IMAGO

Reaction to Arsenal’s Celebrations

Come on people. If you’re angry at Arsenal’s celebrations, then presumably you exploded when Klopp led the players to salute the Kop after a late equaliser against West Brom? 

Let people have their fun. Don’t take it personally. Mikel Arteta is in the process of turning his team and the crowd into believers. We know what that’s like. It seemed that Arsenal fans were a little shocked that their team pulled off the victory. 

On the other hand, you can also see Jamie Carragher’s point about the manager and team needing to maintain focus. I was at the Emirates eight years ago around this time of year when Arsenal beat Leicester City 2-1. The Gunners were giddy. They took a notorious dressing-room photo.

Meanwhile, the Leicester players limped to their coach with rueful, forced smiles and shaking heads. They had the sort of facial expressions that said “That’s not going to happen to us again.” They radiated defiance. Guess who won the league?

I spoke to Steve Nicol once about Manchester United in the 1980s. He said, “They had too many players who liked the idea of being professional footballers and all the good things that came with it but didn’t want to do the work required to earn that status.” That sort of culture has grown at Arsenal over the past 20 years. 

Carra analysed it with a pro’s eye. He’s worth listening to because he knows what he’s talking about. Fans moaning about how others celebrate is pissy. Don’t be pissy. Let supporters take their joy where they can find it. Football is supposed to be fun.

Premier League, most exciting league in the world, blah, blah… 4-4 classics, blah, blah… record goals in a matchround, blah, blah…

Premier League’s Defensive Woes

Or the other view: Premier League, home of shitty defending, where stopping the opposition is a lost art. Some of us miserable arl gets would like to see fewer goals, more control and proper defenders.

For example, why the hell did van Dijk let the ball bounce for the second goal at Arsenal? If he heads the bloody thing, Alisson doesn’t even get involved.

Ibrahima Konate was as bad for his first yellow card. He turned his back on a headable punt and was watching Kai Havertz rather than the ball. Has playing out from the back led to defenders losing sight of one of the game’s fundamentals? Not letting the ball bounce is defending 101. Get them on the training ground Jurgen.  

This should be the easiest scenario for a centre half. It cost us a goal and a man at the Emirates. Thank Christ it’s Vincent Kompany’s Burnley and not Sean Dyche’s on Saturday. 

Thiago’s Missed Opportunity

Thiago. There’s not much to say, really. He wouldn’t have been close to first choice but the thought of him contributing the run-in was exciting. The makeup of the squad might have offered him the opportunity to take a more attacking approach, too. You have to feel for him. 

The other thing is that FSG will be looking at him and doing the age/injury/cost analysis. It may colour their thinking when it comes to the van Dijk and Salah negotiations. Let’s hope Mo’s hamstring doesn’t go again before the end of the season.

In the contract negotiations, Trent is the priority. It’s that simple. 

Looking Forward to Burnley

We’ll feel better after beating Burnley and getting back on track. It’s good that 60,000 people will be behind the team with a new record attendance at Anfield. 

We need this because, like I say, City will push us all the way. Tomorrow, they will set a new record for the most people supporting City at the Etihad. What’s normally the away section will be filled with fans who are desperate for Pep Guardiola’s team to take the three points and pip us to the title. 

Yes, they’re playing Everton. The only blue is sky blue at the Etihad this weekend.  

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