In his weekly Liverpool blog, lifelong Reds fan Dave Tindall examines the games against Southampton and Bournemouth and looks ahead to Saturday’s showdown with Chelsea.
Liverpool 1 Bournemouth 0.
Despite the Klopp feelgood factor, when a late Southampton equaliser consigned the Reds to a 700th 1-1 draw in succession (okay, the seventh out of nine but it felt that way) on Sunday, I did feel in danger of descending into madness.
I feared tormented, tortured, sleep with psychedelic number 1’s accelerating towards me as Klopp’s smiling face swirled around my confused field of vision while a computerised voice kept repeating the mantra: one… one… one… one… one… one (Listen to ‘Revolution Number 9’ by The Beatles and you’ll hear the effect I mean).
The bad trip would continue as a now-frowning Klopp pulled off his face to reveal a laughing Brendan Rodgers. More number 1’s would spin around before dancing in a line and I’d wake up in a cold sweat pleading for mercy.
After the huge promise of the opening 20 minutes against Spurs (which were starting to take on mythical status) and the “oh well, it’s still early days” of the 1-1 draw with Rubin Kazin, there seemed something slightly dark about the 1-1 with Southampton.
The players were trapped somewhere between being excited by Klopp’s arrival and new methods while still feeling stuck in a rut after the mind-numbing amount of draws which had begun under Rodgers.
From a fan’s perspective, there was also the uncomfortable truth that Klopp’s magic wand wasn’t having the instant effect we’d hoped for despite our heads telling us to stay patient. Maybe we just weren’t good enough. Maybe we were only the sixth best team in the Premier League. Behind Spurs. Not good.
Firmino shone alongside youngsters
But Wednesday’s Capital One Cup tie with Bournemouth gave Liverpool the only known cure there is for these feelings of angst… a win!
After seeing the line-up, with youngsters Connor Randall, Joao Teixeira and Cameron Brannigan thrown into the starting XI, I did have my doubts but, in the end, it proved something of a masterstroke from our German manager despite the schedule slightly forcing it on him.
Rather than watch Philippe Coutinho put in another below-par performance and Adam Lallana flatter to deceive, the new faces injected a freshness. Teixeria actually resembled Coutinho with his shimmies, feints and ease in possession – and his cheeky backheel on goal which led to Nathaniel Clyne’s winner was a welcome mix of technique and confidence.
We’ve seen nothing more than brief glimpses of ability from Roberto Firmino so far, but on Wednesday he actually looked like a much-touted Brazilian forward rather than a still slightly bewildered, new-to-the-Premier League foreign signing with a cartoon haircut.
There was one sublime, instinctive nutmeg on the edge of the box, constant clever movement and passing while the only criticism was some haphazard shooting.
He thumped two good efforts on goal, but a couple of times he dragged shots wide. That’s forgivable, though. It’s rather forgotten now, but even Luis Suarez used to snatch at chances in his first full season at Anfield before going on to be the Premier League’s best player.
I don’t think anyone is expecting such heights from Firmino, but if he progresses at this rate he could be a big signing for Liverpool. The Bundesliga background he shares with Klopp only fuels that belief further.
Other plus points? We now have a proper back-up goalkeeper in the form of Adam Bogdan (sorry Brad Jones). and Clyne is actually capable of being a full-back who can stick the ball in the net as well as doing all the athletic, tireless running up and down the line stuff.
Oh, Jordan Ibe looked handy too. Because he’s been left behind (in more ways than one) by Raheem Sterling after the pair came through the Academy together, Ibe had started to become a little frustrating.
But let’s not forget, he’s still a teenager. Ibe has everything in front of him and is another who can flourish under Klopp. He has pace, knows how to beat a man and just needs to add more end product. Much like most of his team-mates!
Chelsea next up for Liverpool
Like every football fan, if you can see obvious and encouraging signs of promise, you want the future speeded up. So, rather than Ibe and Firmino coming on strong after Christmas, I want them to deliver in Liverpool’s very next game.
And, that of course, just happens to be Saturday’s showdown with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The press will no doubt bill Mourinho v Klopp as The Special One v The Normal One, although perhaps we Liverpool fans would prefer something like the moaning Portuguese windbag v the gregarious German guru.
It’s a fascinating encounter to predict. Maybe Chelsea will restore order after their dreadful run of five defeats in the opening 10 Premier League games. But, then again, maybe the timing is perfectly set up for a symbolic handing of the baton as Klopp’s on-the-rise merry men of Merseyside put one over Mourinho’s tired and jaded champions. The King is dead, long live the King and all that.
To be honest, I’m nervous already and I’m writing this on early Friday morning. But there’s good reason why.
If Liverpool are to somehow finish in the top four this season, surely the only team they can knock out of the Champions League slots is Chelsea.
A win on Saturday would not only be a six-point swing, it would give the men in red a renewed belief that it might just be possible. Chelsea will surely get going at some stage so, the more daylight Liverpool can create (a win would increase their lead over the Blues to six points) while the champions flounder under an increasingly crotchety Mourinho, the better.
Bet of the week
Finally, as I ended last week’s column with a winning bet at 13/2 (I predicted a 1-1 draw v Southampton – what a genius!) I’m going to try and pull off another coup.
Liverpool left-backs have some history against Chelsea. Think John Arne Riise in both the 2005 Carling Cup final and 2006 FA Cup semi-final and Fabio Aurelio’s disguised 35-yard free-kick in the 2008 Champions League semi-final.
So, step forward Alberto Moreno.
Firstly, the current first-choice left-back is thriving under Klopp and admitted that his new coach has a trust in him that he never felt under Rodgers.
Secondly, Klopp continues to talk about how high he wants his full-backs up the pitch and therefore he was delighted to see Clyne (left-back on the night) in a position to knock in the rebound against Bournemouth.
Put the two together and let’s have a punt on Moreno at 14/1 to score anytime and at 33/1 to net the first goal (both with bet365).
Agree with Dave’s assessments? Discuss the article and other issues at Anfield on the Liverpool Your Say forum.