The anticipation of the new football season is usually enough to have even the most pessimistic of football fan trembling with excitement at their team’s chances. For Liverpool, the prospect of seeing the likes of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and new man Mohamed Salah all linking up in red shirts is mouth-watering.
Well, that made us look rather silly. We had predicted a low scoring draw at the London Stadium last week when Liverpool visited West Ham, and the ensuing hammering took us and probably many other people by surprise.
If there is such a thing as an end of season malaise, then the Liverpool players must snap out of it rather quickly. After a derisory performance in the 0-0 stalemate with Southampton last time out, the Reds need to find a spark or risk the rest of the campaign turning into something of a washout.
Make no mistake, last week’s 1-0 win over Watford was a huge result for everyone associated with Liverpool FC. Forget the manner of the victory and the performance, and instead savour the three points which take the Reds ever closer to that essential top four finish.
It’s Sod’s Law, isn’t it. Christian Benteke has scored seven career goals at Anfield; four in a red shirt for Liverpool in his year-long stint at the club, and three for Aston Villa in his time there.
Given the Reds’ inability to ‘win ugly’ at times this season, their frailty against so-called weaker opposition and, clearly, the absence of a key trio in Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana, Liverpool’s 1-0 win at West Brom last time out was a real marker that this now is a team with real ambition.
Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Stoke City was an important victory for many reasons. It consolidated our grip on a Champions League place – we’re six points clear of Manchester United now, ended that ‘bottom half hoodoo’ which governs that the Reds tend to struggle against so-called weaker opposition, and it was a game that also got a reaction from Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino.
It is clearly apparent that Liverpool have a problem seeing off sides from the wrong end of the Premier League table. How else can we explain two more dropped points, this time on home soil against Bournemouth in midweek?
In any sport, if you can bring your best to the big occasion then you are going to do very well for yourself, no doubt about it. Being able to live with the pressure of the spotlight and still deliver is a very worthy attribute to have indeed.
The international break is a source of much worry and consternation for club managers: ‘will my players return unharmed?’ is the general cause for such anxiety.