Dave Tindall picks the bones out of the ‘predictable’ defeat to Crystal Palace but still thinks Jurgen Klopp’s way is the right way in this week’s Liverpool blog.
Benteke revenge so predictable
Let’s deal with the Crystal Palace defeat first and exhume the misery.
The most depressing aspect of the 2-1 loss was that it was all so drearily predictable. Christian Benteke, the man we sold in the summer for being a bit useless returning to Anfield to show that he’s not so bad after all.
And, to rub salt into the rounds, his winner coming from another sodding set-piece. Here we are in April and there’s still absolutely no sign of us getting any better at the back. What a waste of Philippe Coutinho’s glorious free-kick.
Unless we’re very careful, our defensive frailties will kill our Champions League hopes. And, quite simply, that would be tragic (in a sporting sense at least) in a season where our record against the rest of the top six (won five, drawn five, lost none) should have put us comfortably back at Europe’s top table.
Inevitably, Arsenal and Manchester United had added to the weekend blues by closing the gap with victories before we kicked off and the Gunners reduced the deficit further with a late winner at home to Leicester on Wednesday night, a goal which led to me saying a lot of rude words in quick succession.
And so to Thursday night’s Manchester derby.
Are City and United actually that good?
Before the match I’d been reading something about the summer transfer window when a line jumped out at me. “Liverpool, whose record signing was Andy Carroll for £35million…..”. Woah! I sort of knew that at the back of my mind but it still stopped me in my tracks. Not the inflated fee but the fact that we haven’t broken our transfer record since 2011!
I haven’t checked but I imagine every other club in the Premier League would have smashed theirs in the last season or two.
City playing United and thinking about how much that duo had spent on single targets reinforced the idea that we just don’t or can’t compete on their levels. For United, Pogba £89.3million, Angel Di Maria £59.7million, Juan Mata £37.1million, Anthony Martial £36million. They’d forked out nearly £30million on Rio Ferdinand 15 years ago!
As for City, Kevin De Bruyne £54million, John Stones £47.5million, Raheem Sterling £44million, Sergio Aguero £38million, Leroy Sane £37million.
And then I watched it and any silly notions of jealousy were wiped away. City weren’t all that and United were just…. beyond dull. Three attempts to City’s 19. Just 31% possession.
Does Martial really enjoy having to play like this? Does he not look at his French mates at Monaco and all the fun they’re having and wish he was part of that?
Does getting dour 0-0s (just like the one they dug out against us at Anfield) really satisfy United fans? You’re not Atletico Madrid fuelled by an underdog mentality or an expensively-assembled West Brom. You’re Man Utd, one of the world’s biggest football teams with a tradition for free-flowing football.
Of course, this is what United bought into when they appointed Jose Mourinho and it’s easy to argue that it’s part of a process and next season is when they’ll kick on and show the ambition required to win big games. But we’re doing that now, so why can’t they at least try to?
Some might say, the bottom line is trophies and United could very easily end this campaign with two of them and make a laughing stock of the critics.
But I want art, by its nature sometimes flawed, rather than dull, grey, emotionless science. I want special moments of genuine fun and happiness; not the illusion of it and forced contentment that comes from boring the pants off the watching world by “doing a job” and grinding out 0-0s on the road when hardly having a kick in the opposition half. Be honest United fans, after being brought up on attacking football, a part of you is dying inside when watching your team serve up this sort of stuff.
For all our negatives and the obvious downs, I prefer the path we’re treading.
The Klopp way is the right way
Jurgen Klopp produces exciting football teams which thrill rather than depress against elite opposition. He radiates positivity and it rubs off on everyone. Others may mock all the post-match hugs but they’re some of my favourite moments of the Liverpool match-day experience.
There’s enough negativity in the world; Klopp, quite simply, makes me feel good – whether it’s by playing Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal or Spurs off the park with heavy metal football or just offering some soothing philosophical words in a German accent in the wake of a horrid defeat.
If there’s a football god, our gung-ho attitude and superb, fearless, refreshing performances in the big matches will get their reward this season and United’s anti-football in the same games will not.
It’s all very well getting battling draws and being praised for tactical masterclasses at Anfield, the Etihad and perhaps in the next two away games at the Emirates and White Hart Lane but add it all up. Individually, they’re each a point gained. Collectively they’re eight points dropped.
United have drawn 13 matches this season – more than anyone else in the Premier League – and there must be a huge chance that it will catch up with them.
Right, time to exhale. If you’re reading between the lines, you’ll have realised by now that I’m putting a brave face on it. I genuinely mean all the stuff about Klopp being a breath of fresh air but the bottom line is I’m very concerned and perhaps lining up my excuses and defence mechanisms early.
The overriding thought on Thursday was that, at least City and United playing each other meant someone had to drop points. And it’s that flurry of late-season head-to-heads between our rivals which could be our ‘get out of jail’ card.
So much still to play for
We have, famous last words, winnable games against Watford, Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough. Elsewhere, fixtures still to be played are: Spurs v Arsenal (this Sunday), Arsenal v Man Utd and Spurs v Man Utd.
Tottenham have the best home record in the division with 15 wins, two draws and not a single defeat. What better team to do us a favour.
The guessing game is ultimately futile but I challenge any Liverpool fan not to indulge in a bout of ‘predict the points’. So here goes….
If United do their mind-numbing away draw act at Spurs and Arsenal and win their other three games they’d finish with 75 points.
If Arsenal draw with United and Spurs and win their remaining four fixtures they’d have 74 points.
We currently have 66. Three wins out of four would get us to 75 and, right now, we have a +28 to +26 goal difference over United.
“We’re scoring a lot of goals and, you never know, it could be an issue. We just want to make sure that, if it goes to goal difference, our own tally is good. I’ve always said that having a superior goal difference is worth an extra point. It could be vital this season.”
Those aren’t the words of Jurgen Klopp. Nope, they were once said by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Just imagine if we secure a Champions League spot on goal difference! It would be beyond sweet, a triumph for Jurgen’s idealism over Jose’s pragmatism.
If only life were that simple. If only we could really make sure by swapping our defence for theirs.