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While people talk of crisis, Liverpool will keep on winning


While people talk of crisis, Liverpool will keep on winning

The Reds have shown they can cope with addversity under Jurgen Klopp this season.

AFTER suffering back-to-back defeats for the first time since May – and with only one fit senior specialist centre-back fit and available – the word ‘crisis’ is again cropping up in media analysis of Liverpool’s current situation.

Which, when you consider The Reds top the Premier League by four points, have lost just one league game in 21 (away to the current champions Manchester City), and have a last-16 Champions League tie with Bayern Munich to look forward to, seems quite the reach.

City triumphed 2-1 in a closely-fought Premier League game that, on another day, Liverpool could easily have claimed at least a point from. An FA Cup defeat followed – contested by a side showing nine changes, and one - following the early injury to Dejan Lovren - that blooded three teenagers.

Neither of these scenarios offer up much to be worried about despite the tiresome trolling from the obsessed rival fans that has followed.

The Reds remain unbeaten at home in the league, in the last 10 matches have won six more points than Manchester City and, having contested 10 games in 36 days, have gone from second place and five points behind at one point in December to first place and four points ahead in January.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Monday’s FA Cup defeat - the fifth time in a row Liverpool have faced Premier League opposition in a domestic cup game by the way (just saying) - prompted much hand rubbing from the mainstream media, yet many a scribe seemed to willfully ignore the context.

Pre the match at Molineux, Jurgen Klopp said: “When people talk to me about silverware it looks like we have to get each little thing. If we would win the FA Cup people would still say ‘but you didn’t win the Premier League for 425 years,’.”

He’s right, isn’t he? Arsene Wenger won FA Cups in the face of continuous criticism during his later days at Arsenal. And how did that work out for him?

I like the FA Cup. I’ve had some fantastic times as a fan watching Liverpool lift it five times during my lifetime, from the satisfying 3-1 win over Everton in 1986 to the Steven Gerrard wonder strike v West Ham in 2006.

But does the prospect of FA Cup number eight for Liverpool pump the blood anywhere near close to the claret carry-on created by the idea of league title number 19?

Of course not. Not even close. This is Liverpool’s best chance in 29 years of breaking something that has felt close to a curse at times. An all-out assault on the title is all that matters this season. And nothing should get in the way of it.

The fake furore over Monday’s selection was laughable, and made more so by seeing Lovren laid out on the Wolves pitch. Can you imagine that was Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk or Mo Salah? The manager called it exactly right.

The barbs banged out by some hacks even backed up Klopp’s approach. If the shadow side was as poor as some suggested isn’t that even more good reason to now celebrate that Liverpool have a better chance of fielding the better players more often than not in the 17 Premier League games that remain?

City and Spurs will continue to fight on four fronts, while Liverpool’s focus is now much clearer. For once, “concentrating on the league” is no bad thing and The Reds now have just five matches in six weeks after the festive flurry that came before.

Klopp can also look forward to free weekends this month and next as Liverpool look to prove the odds that show them as title favourites correct.

So what is this “crisis”?

Much is being said and written right now about the centre half positions, with Lovren joining Joel Matip and Joe Gomez in sick bay, while rookie Nat Phillips is also sidelined.

Yet Fabinho did well enough at Wolves to suggest he - like most do - can shine alongside Van Dijk until the situation improves.

And for those looking at history for inspiration, The Reds have played at Brighton, as they will on Saturday, with only one first-choice centre back once before.

Then, with Gomez, Matip and Ragnar Klavan unavailable, Klopp opted for a three-man defence featuring Lovren, Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum. It was the first time the Dutchman had played there in his career. The Reds won 5-1.

What is pitched as a crisis outside of Anfield rarely feels like one in it these days, and that’s why heads should remain on shoulders and nerves calm.

While the blog and social media frenzy continues to peddle the myths of a frothing Liverpool fanbase so different to any other, most Reds supporters are accepting of the progress under Klopp and recognise a job well done so far.

Liverpool under this manager have rarely looked like a side that feels sorry for itself and the record of bouncing back from adversity has been a good one.

Many wondered whether an adrenaline-fuelled, high-octane charge to the Champions League final, coupled with a top-four Premier League finish, might be the high point for the class of Klopp. It was a view for many that was perhaps a product of the past – too many Liverpool sides of the past three decades or so have boomed then bust.

Can this one be different? Can this one go further? Can this one finally end this bloody wait?

Questions remain - but Klopp, and this team, have been very, very good at finding answers so far. So the ‘bottling’ it talk? The ‘crisis’ chat?

It’s you not us, lads. We’re fine. Keep on writing. Keep on whining. The Reds can keep on winning.

 

 

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Gareth Roberts
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