I’ve always been grateful for la sécurité sociale, as the French equivalent of the NHS is known. Some of the best general practitioners around and a plethora of specialists.
They know how to deal with stress, nerves, insomnia, irregular heartbeats, etc., etc. as well as anyone. Well, at least I hope they do, because I’m going to be needing them over the next six months.
I thought this would be enjoyable. But it’s not really, is it? Maybe that’s because I’m a miserable old sod or maybe it’s just a defence mechanism against the inevitable disappointment that we’ve become used to – in terms of the Title at any rate – in the last 30-odd years. Whatever it is, the “enjoyment” is ephemeral – when we go close, when we score, when I engage in a flurry of WhatsApp messages after the game.
And then, when the lights go out and you’re waiting for the next game, three days later, looking at the different permutations, a thousand scenarios going through your mind, you realise that the next five months are going to be unbearable. Millions of Reds’ daily existence and possibly state of mind dictated to by what goes on during those 90 minutes…
In the last few days Klopp has tried to douse the fires of optimism. And while you can’t blame him for that, you also can’t blame Reds for believing our time has come (again). Of course, there’s plenty of drivel too: I saw someone refer to us as “Champions-elect” last week. But most of the enthusiasm is justified based on a) years of pent-up hope which is looking more and more justified and b) our first half of the season.
I did a piece for the site at the start of the season and I mentioned that I couldn’t believe the optimism going into a new season, mainly because we had finished 25 points behind City! To make up that gap, we would have to effectively win NINE GAMES MORE than last season, assuming they maintained their level. We are on course to do that: we’ve won 16 out of 19, as against 21 out of 38 for the whole of last season.
City can only get to 100 points if they win the rest of their games. So, the optimism – with the hindsight of half a season – was well founded. I don’t know if it was blind faith in Klopp and this team or some solid reasoning or a bit of both, but whatever it was, I wish I were more like those Reds!
The other reservation I had was our goals against column, as I wrote at the time:
“From 1.33 goals a game conceded in his first season, we progressed to 1.10 a game in 2016-2017 and to 1 last season (2017-2018). The hope is that Alisson will finally win us points. We haven’t been able to say that for years; decades, perhaps.
When was the last time we would say a keeper was worth X number of points a season to us? Often, it’s been the opposite: they’ve cost us points and more recently trophies. The plus/minus on that front will go a long way to dictating our season.
I’ve said it before: Salah, Bobby and Sadio (and maybe even Daniel now!) can’t be expected to go to the well week after week. They need to know that ONE will be enough sometimes.
Again, this is an area in which we’ve progressed immensely. In 2016-2017 we kept 11 clean sheets, last season we were up to 18. We’re going to need to produce those numbers this season to sustain a Title challenge and all the while be as prolific up front as we were last season.”
Ask and you shall receive! Alisson has been a revelation, one or two faux pas aside, but that comes with the territory with him. Virgil has just got better with every game and has also made everyone else better. 12 clean sheets out of 19 tells its own story.
We concede an average of a goal every 244 minutes, essentially a goal every three games! And we’ve managed to do all this while still averaging well over 2 goals a game. We may not be as exciting as we were last season, although there are signs that this could be changing, but we are certainly a more clinical outfit.
That Klopp has managed to do all this while having to contend with numerous injuries – Trent, Joe, Lovren, Keita, Hendo and Milner have all been out at different stages – is to his eternal credit. His man management, notably of Fabinho, has been just right. And his signings have improved us – no given in terms of Liverpool managers over the years. Shaqiri was a steal and the bargain of this team. Apart from The Great Andy Robertson.
I hoped at the start of the season to improve on last season’s total of 75 points. That should be doable now! But things can change very quickly. City have had a blip, one from which they could roar back. Spurs, since losing to us, have won 12 out of 14!
The next month will tell a lot. If, after our next five games, we are sitting on 60 points, then I might start believing. And making medical appointments.