Our Liverpool man Dave Tindall makes a brilliant analogy involving Daniel Sturridge, while he wouldn’t have been surprised to see a Scooby Doo-style mask reveal after the draw with Manchester United.
Sky Sports reported their highest single-match viewing figures in three years for our game with Manchester United on Monday night.
Over three million tuned in and yet I wonder how many of those used the phrase “well, that’s 90 minutes of my life I’ll never get back” after watching one of the dullest games between the two sides I can ever recall?
I really don’t want to prolong the agony by dwelling on it further and ideally we’d be able to shake off that unbearable ennui with an away trip to somewhere nice like Bournemouth where they’d put on a fun spectacle rather than sucking the life out of the beautiful game.
Except that, having just said good riddance to the United bus, another one is pulling into Anfield on Saturday. And this time it’s got bloody West Brom boss Tony Pulis driving it.
Monday’s bore draw would have been enhanced dramatically if, at the end, Jurgen Klopp and assistant boss Zeljko Buvac had wrestled Jose Mourinho to the floor and peeled off his mask to reveal Pulis under there.
Sure, there would have been some initial shock but a crowd raised on Scooby Doo would have quickly got over it and decided that it all made sense.
One man’s tactical masterclass is another man’s park-the-bus Pulis-ball and I certainly couldn’t see the difference with United seemingly playing with a back six.
If that’s the height of their ambition, fine. A reminder though that United have now won just 14 points in eight games which, as Opta informs us, is Mourinho’s lowest tally with a new club since he took charge of Uniao de Leiria in 2001. All that money spent, all the tradition of attacking football…just saying.
Anyway, rather than turn this into a dig at United my main concern obviously is that Monday was a reminder that Liverpool can still struggle against stifling negativity – hashtag, thegeniusofjose.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that Pulis will employ the same tactics. To be fair, why wouldn’t you given that we couldn’t overcome it.
True, West Brom don’t have a David de Gea (please stop being sensational against us every time or, better still, here’s lots of money and we’ll sign you) or the classy Ander Herrera but they haven’t needed them.
Pulis famously squeezes out the most he can and he’s been a massive nuisance to us down the years. In fact, Liverpool haven’t beaten a Pulis-managed side in the last eight meetings.
Perhaps it’s a good time to be playing West Brom though. Having failed to break down United, Klopp gets an immediate chance to shuffle his pack and find a system that will work better against similarly set-up opponents.
His hand was certainly forced on Monday and it was very obvious that a song started to emerge from the tuneless dirge when Adam Lallana was introduced and Daniel Sturridge removed.
Sturridge has taken a lot of stick for his non-performance against United and although it was a horrible game for him it’s hard to escape the view that he was part of the problem.
He just doesn’t have the same energy, pace or closing down skills as the rest of Liverpool’s attack and if he’s not doing what he does best – being the club’s most potent goalscorer – then his value is seriously diminished.
We’ve fired blanks in just two games this season (0-2 at Burnley and 0-0 with Man Utd) and, unfortunately, one of the obvious common denominators was that Sturridge started both games.
I’m a bit in denial over it, I guess, as someone like him doesn’t come along that often. Let’s say it’s like having a really beautiful girlfriend who just doesn’t quite fit in when you go out with all your mates. She’s a stunner but somehow it’s all a bit compromised and you have more fun when she isn’t there.
And you know what happens next. You reluctantly call it off and then get massively jealous when you see her out partying and having an absolute blast with her new bloke and his mates i.e. signing for Arsenal.
For the record, Sturridge has actually scored in his last two starts against West Brom and, in a game where Liverpool are more likely to dominate (Herrera and, gulp, Marouane Fellaini were good against us), his clever movement may be just the job.
But, as LFC legend Jamie Carragher said earlier this week, if everyone’s fit, Sturridge isn’t making the first team. It’s hard to disagree. With Lallana fit again, the mobile front three of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are likely to be reunited, meaning Sturridge will have to attempt to score his first Premier League goal of the season from the bench.
HT: Liverpool 0 – 0 Manchester United https://t.co/HHXKbMbr1j
— Football Vines (@FootballVines) October 17, 2016
I’m not giving up on him yet though. After taking a very healthy 17 points from a very tough opening eight games, our next eight league opponents are West Brom (h), Crystal Palace (a), Watford (h), Southampton (a), Sunderland (h), Bournemouth (a), West Ham (h) and Middlesbrough (a).
Easier than the first eight but, in other ways, trickier too. Sturridge’s goals may well be vital at some point and if we are to win the Premier League/make the top four, we do it with a squad rather than a chosen XI.
Between West Brom and Palace is another meeting with Spurs on Tuesday but this time in the League Cup and at home. Their next three games after that are Leicester (h), Bayer Leverkusen (h) and Arsenal (a) so, with massive changes expected, it’s a golden chance for us to knock them out and make further progress in a competition that gave us a lot of pleasure last season.
Quite simply, if I’m not writing about two Liverpool wins (West Brom and Spurs) in next week’s Red Letter, I’ll punish myself by listening to a Coldplay album and then watching a re-run of our game with United. Please make that not happen.
Dave Tindall (@davetindallgolf)