"That's Football" by John Brennan
“That’s football!” Funny, I’d love to see him turn to the Main Stand when we concede yet another goal that’ll be soon be a GIF and hear what he has to say. “That’s shite!” Or, maybe, “That’s what we’ve been working on at Melwood all week!”
Nah, I didn’t think so either. It’s hard to be grumpy after the attacking performance we saw on Tuesday but I’ll give it a good shot.
Firstly, the self-congratulatory “That’s football!” He just can’t help himself, this guy. If he spent as much time working on our defensive problems as he does geeing up the crowd, then we’d be a lot better off. Heck, we might even have finished third last season and avoided two extra games in August. His foray towards The Kop after the game? He’s got almost everyone eating out of his hands, hasn’t he?
Anyway, did we win something the other night? You would have been forgiven for thinking so, given the eulogistic post-game interviews. We’ve qualified for the group stages of the European Cup. Yippee! That’s a snarky “Yippee”, as you’ll have gathered, unlike Klopp’s, which was genuine. “Lost in translation”, no doubt. Now that we’re there we could go far. I agree with Dave – these two-legged games suit us much better. Lose 3-2 in Maribor? Possible. Annihilate them 9-3 at Anfield? More than likely. That’s the way this team works.
So, Hoffenheim? Well that was exhilarating, fast, incisive, probing, out-of-your-seat football. It brought us back to the best days 2014 when Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling and Gerrard were destroying anyone who crossed their path. Any time this team attacks, it looks like scoring. The danger comes from everyone and everywhere.
Klopp has created this, let there be no equivocation. He deserves and has got credit for that. The jury is out on Salah, obviously, as he’s been here just a month. But based on what we’ve seen so far, it augurs well for the season. Mané, a Klopp signing – for which he also deserves credit – is outstanding. Firmino gets better with every game; Klopp also deserves credit for getting the best out of him and putting players around him who complement his game. Pace, allied to vision and intelligence is a lethal combination. We are in for a treat this season. No team can live with this team in full flow.
Where it could come crumbling down is the pressure these front men are under to produce. Game after game, will it be possible? Last season, we played 47 games in total (38 + 6 League Cup + 3 FA Cup). By my calculations, we have 30 games before the end of December. And more if we progress in the League Cup. In December alone we have SEVEN league games and our last European Cup group game (2nd, 6th, 9th, 13th, 16th, 23rd, 26th, 30th).
These guys are brilliant but will they be able to produce 2 or 3 goals every week? Can we rely on others (like Sturridge and Solanke) to pick up the slack? What happens when the inevitable injuries take their toll? With this team, one goal is rarely enough – and those are the days we could suffer.
The reason, of course, that one is rarely enough is because of our defence. In those 47 games last season, we conceded two (or more) 12 times. As long as that’s the case, this team can’t win anything. There is a developing narrative of a defence and attack “trade-off”, alluded to by Dave in the Hoffenheim match report.
It goes something like the following: “we’re so attack-minded that you have to be prepared to conceded goals.” The premise is that we’ll score enough to win most of our games. Except we probably won’t. Our front men are going to have off-days and when they do, we can’t rely on our defence to keep clean sheets. Hoffenheim opened us up at will at times. Better teams – ones who can defend AND attack – are going to cause us all sorts of problems. Even Watford – WATFORD! – did it to us the first day.
The average goal difference to win the Title in the last five seasons has been +47. Given the rate at which we concede goals, we’re going to have to score well over 90 to have a chance at the Title this season, or, at least, to be in contention. In a 50+-game season in all competitions, I’m not sure we can. The winning of trophies will depend on our defence bailing the front men out at times. Goodness knows, they owe Mané, Firmino and company one. That too “is football”.