So, that’s that then. Liverpool’s 68-game unbeaten run at Anfield in Premier League matches came to and on Thursday night in the unlikeliest of fashion. The Reds’ first home defeat in nearly four years was dished out by Burnley, who themselves ended a 45-year wait for a win on the hallowed Anfield turf.
Maybe Jurgen Klopp had a point. His belief that a packed fixture schedule, exacerbated by the demands of broadcasters to get Liverpool as their live match on a Saturday lunchtime, will hurt the Reds this season appears to be proven correct as another leggy performance saw them stumble to a 0-0 draw with Manchester United on Sunday.
It would be fair to say that Liverpool’s 4-1 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round was rather unexpected. After complaining of fixture congestion and the pressures of that on his squad, Jurgen Klopp named something close to being Liverpool’s strongest starting eleven against what was basically Aston Villa’s youth team, with their usual names beset by coronavirus or in isolation.
It was always likely that Liverpool’s lack of defensive strength in depth would catch them out this season, and those chickens came home to roost in the 0-1 defeat to Southampton on Monday.
The period between Christmas and the new year is notorious for the feelings of lethargy and malaise it can produce in sofa-bound families watching an Indiana Jones film for the 247th time. You wouldn’t expect similar listlessness amongst elite-level athletes, mind you, however Liverpool’s performance in the 1-1 draw with West Brom on Sunday suggested that a few of the players were still, spiritually at least, tucking into a box of Heroes on the sofa themselves.
When you win 7-0 and the manager still isn’t happy then you know you have high expectations to meet.
Even in the midst of watching his Liverpool team lay waste to Crystal Palace, Jurgen Klopp concluded afterwards that he was ‘not over the moon’ with how things went and how they are going.
It looked ever more likely that Jose Mourinho’s masterplan was going to prove fruitful at Anfield on Wednesday. Tottenham almost did as their manager wanted: getting themselves into an advantageous position and then attempting to hold out for a positive result.
The problem with being champions is that you are there to be shot at – and everybody wants a piece. The American writer R W Emerson wrote that ‘if you take a shot at the king, you’d better not miss’, and unfortunately for Fulham a profligacy in front of goal cost them a famous victory over Liverpool on Sunday.
It was a game that was expected to be something of a celebration of Liverpool’s fringe players and stars of tomorrow. But in the end, the 1-1 draw with FC Midtjylland was notable after a slice of history was created by one of the club’s most well-established stars.
A small, but very fortunate, band of Liverpool fans were allowed back into Anfield for the first time since March. And they were treated to a glorious performance from their heroes as the Reds ran rampage against an always-tough Wolves side.