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Norwich City 0 Liverpool 3 (Aug 14 2021)

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Dave Usher

 

All it took was one weekend to show just how fucking empty and shit last season was. Right across the board, the games were just better and more intense and the players looked so much more into it and excited. This one game alone was more enjoyable than anything that happened last season. 

 

Even the good things last season were shit because fans weren’t there. Alisson’s goal was amazing, a moment we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. Imagine it in a full stadium though. Totally different level. Look at the goal celebrations from the lads in this one too. Last season no-one really wanted to celebrate anything (Alisson’s goal apart, obviously) because there was no atmosphere, no electricity, everything was just sanitised and watered down without crowds.

 

So this was great, I loved it. Seeing the joy on the faces of our goalscorers (and those celebrating with them) was just heart warming and made me feel all fuzzy inside. It’s been a while since we had this and I don’t think anybody will ever take it for granted again. The players have missed the fans as much as we’ve missed being there. I don’t just mean out players either, right across the whole of football everyone was buzzing this weekend. Except Arsenal fans, obviously.

 

It’s not just that there are fans in the stadium though, it’s that there are away fans too. This was as close to normal as we can hope for really. It was just fucking amazing to have proper footy back and the players looked just as excited about it as we are. Having full stadiums again is probably worth 20 points to us right off the bat. I’m serious.

 

We didn’t start this game particularly well but I barely even noticed as I was just enjoying the novelty of it so much. It feels like forever since we’ve seen games in full stadiums with two sets of fans and I was just completely engaged in it in a way I never was last season.

 

The first team selection of the season was a little bit surprising though. Most of it was as expected but I didn’t see Fabinho missing out or Ox starting. That said, I wasn’t concerned by the line up as I thought it would be more than good enough to win the game, but whenever Fab isn’t there you know we’re going to be weaker than when he’s playing because he’s a fucking monster. Have we ever not bossed a midfield when he’s been out there? Genuine question. 

 

Milner in the six role doesn’t especially inspire confidence though. He’ll do a job there because he’s James fucking Milner and he can play anywhere, but against better opposition that midfield trio would have struggled. Whenever Keita plays we usually look more open anyway, but pair him up with Ox and that’s a concern when he we don’t have the ball, and that concern is greater when it’s Milner being asked to pick up the slack. Him getting an early yellow card was the most obvious thing we’ll see all season.

 

On paper that midfield should be class when we did have the ball, but it didn’t work out like that. I mean, it was ok, I don’t think we struggled in any way and I always felt we were in control, but it could have been better and it was when Fabinho eventually came on. I had high hopes for Ox in this game but he was really quiet and just couldn’t really get into it. Keita was very efficient though. Neat and tidy, did nothing wrong, just a solid performance from him.

 

The opening goal was a bit scrappy but we’ll take it. It started with Norwich appealing for a foul when Pukki went down in the vicinity of Van Dijk. The linesman wasn’t interested and neither was VAR. Quite right, there was fuck all in that and it looked like Pukki tripped over his own feet as much as anything else. 

 

Milner switched the play to Trent who picked out Mo in the box. His touch was wayward but Jota was onto it in a flash and toe poked it goal wards. Krul should have saved it but didn’t. Mo got an assist for that, which is a joke really. Worst assist since a goal kick hit Aquilani on the arse and Stevie lashed it in from 30 yards at Burnley.

 

I know this isn’t the case but it sure as hell feels as though Jota scores every time he plays. Other than the hat-trick away in Italy, it’s never more than one, but he just chips in with a goal seemingly every time he’s out there. And he can do it from any spot in the front three too, which is a great bonus for us as it gives Klopp all kinds of options for rotation. Jota can play any of those three spots and that gives us a lot of flexibility. He’s maybe not as silky as the other three but he’s ‘johnny on the spot’ and I fucking love him.

 

The goal had been coming as we had sustained pressure in their half and were forcing a lot of corners, all of which looked like they would end up with us having a shot at goal. We weren’t winning the initial header but Van Dijk and Matip were causing panic and the second ball seemed to fall to us every time. 

 

We had a penalty appeal ignored when Mo tangled with Cantwell. Last season that was a penalty. Not to us, obviously, but at the other end that was 100% being given. We saw it when Welbeck won that late pen against Robbo in fact. This wasn’t a pen and I’m not complaining it wasn’t given. I’m only mentioning it because there seems to have been a shift in how games are going to be refereed. 

 

This first weekend has been the best display of leaguewide refereeing we’ve seen in years. Hardly any VAR sticking its fucking nose in either, which is always a good thing. Norwich had a soft penalty appeal dismissed too, which again, last season it may not have been.

 

No fans and constant VAR bollocks made last season the least enjoyable ever but hopefully we can get past that now. Fans are back and if VAR winds its neck in maybe this year will be fun again. It’s only one game though so I’m not taking anything for granted with regards to refs and VAR. Encouraging start though. Very encouraging actually. Keep it going and I may need to rethink my stance of us having the worst refs in any of the big European leagues.

 

Anyway, having gone ahead the only question I had now was how many we’d score. I didn’t see any way we would let them back into it, especially after Fabinho came on to tighten our grip on the game. He was joined in a double substitution by Firmino, as they replaced Ox and Jota.

 

Might be a while before Ox gets another start now that Hendo and Thiago are almost ready. This was a big chance for him but he didn’t take it. It won’t matter too much too Klopp as he will take training performances into account too, but in the eyes of a lot of fans this won’t have done Ox any favours. Being outplayed by Keita isn’t a good look when you’re trying to force your way into a midfield than already has three of the best in the world. In Ox’s favour he does do things none of the others can, he just needs to start producing it.

 

As for Jota, he did what he was in the team to do and in addition to his goal he also had a long run that took him past two defenders before that little turd Cantwell scythed him down on the edge of the box. Don’t blame the lad for the foul, I’d expect any of our players to do the same, but I just don’t like him from when Norwich were last up. I can’t even remember why exactly, but the look of him alone is enough to make me think he’s probably a knob. 

 

He looks like he could be the leader of the ‘Young Conservatives’. Mind you, I used to think that about my boy Patrick Bamford and I couldn’t have been more wrong there as he’s a top lad. Usually I’m spot on with these things though so until he proves otherwise I’ll assume Cantwell is more than likely a posh little wanker.

 

Jota was shaping up for what might have already ended the ‘goal of the season’ contest so it was frustrating to see him chopped down in his prime. Jota’s performance was fine yet I agreed with the substitution as it made sense to freshen things up, and Bobby had looked sharp against Osasuna so it was important to get him involved.

 

He could be so important for us this season. We can still win the league if he’s not at his best (I didn’t think he had a great season when we did win it) but if he bounces back and chips in with 20 while still doing what he does, that really could be the difference for us, especially if Sadio is back to his old self too.

 

It’s way too soon to be making any assessments of those two but Sadio had looked really sharp in pre-season and he looks like he’s got the eye of the tiger again. As for Bobby, he got a couple of goals last week and has now scored again, so that bodes well, especially with Jota being so prolific and Mo just being a relentlessly constant pain in the arse to everyone he plays against.

 

He just never stops running in behind. Every time we get the ball he’s sprinting in behind looking for a through ball and it must be draining as fuck for defenders to have to continually try to deal with that. What makes it harder is that he never gets tired and can run just as fast and just as powerfully in stoppage time as he can in the first minute. He just wears the opponent down.

 

And now he’s playing in his strike partners too? When he squared that ball to tee up bobby for a tap in my first thought was this scene in Happy Gilmore…..

 

gilmore-happy.gif

 

Mo learned how to pass. Uh-oh!

 

Seriously, I know he’s done that before but in this game he was looking to do it quite a bit. Him and Sadio passed to each other more in this game than they did in the first six months of last season (although it got much better over the run in). The assist for Bobby was great because we’ve seen plenty of occasions when he’d have taken that on himself, even on his weak foot. 

 

The pass was perfectly executed and Bobby was off the mark for the season. Great stuff. It also meant the game was won. Norwich might have been able to somehow score one but they were never getting two. And then soon after they needed three.

 

Mo’s goal was a beauty and it had been coming. He was just so dangerous all day, but that’s not just what I mean. I also felt that the type of goal he scored had been coming. In the first half there were two or three occasions when our corners fell to him or another one of our lads on the edge of the box because Norwich just weren’t defending that area. 

 

Mo had a shot blocked from a similar area in the first half but this time there was no stopping it. The first touch was exquisite, the second was deadly. Fucking brilliant goal and well deserved as he was the best player on the pitch. 

 

Norwich did threaten a consolation but were thwarted by Alisson, who made a fantastic save and then bounced back up immediately to twice clear follow up attempts. Outstanding. As was Matip, who nobody ever talks about even though he is the only centre back in the league even vaguely close to Van Dijk levels. You aren’t ever going to convince me that Joel Matip isn’t fucking amazing. Literally his only weakness is his lack of durability, because when he plays he’s better than anyone in the Premier League not named Virgil. As for the man himself, cruise control. Barely broke sweat, but him just being out makes everyone else feel ten feet tall.

 

The front three are giving me different vibes than I’ve had from them in a good while. It’s only one game but it felt like they were having fun playing together. There have been times when they’ve looked like they were playing, I don’t want to say for themselves, as these lads aren’t like that, but they weren’t playing for each other. By that I mostly mean Mo and Sadio, because Bobby’s troubles were nothing to do with that. If anything he’s been far too unselfish.

 

The best moment of this whole game for me was Mo spurning a great chance late on because the only thing in his head when he went through on goal was whether he could square it to Mané. He tried but it was cut out. I fucking loved that though and I’m sure Klopp did too. They were looking for each other all game and it just felt like 2018 again to me. Hopefully that continues.

 

Just look how happy Mo was when he set up Bobby. His little beaming face. I’m sensing something already here. For all the absolute shite being spoken by pundits about how its between City and Chelsea, we’ve got the best team in this league and it’s not even really close. Squad depth levels the playing field somewhat but we’ve got the best first eleven and that’s a hill I’ll die on.

 

People are putting far too much stock in what happened last season and as a result they’re vastly over-rating City and under-rating us because of it. Last season means fuck all because they were basically playing a different sport. It has as much relevance to this year as it would it it had been eight a side or if they’d been playing on a beach. Football in empty stadiums is so far removed from normal footy and this weekend showed that.

 

I reckon the players sense that too. They know how much having no fans hurt them last year and you can see how excited they are now. There’s a spring in their step and having Virgil back will make everyone even more confident. This is basically the same group that ran away with the league a couple of years ago. Ok, Gini’s no longer here but Thiago and Jota are, and Konate as well now. 

 

I look at it this way. When we send a team out there that has Alisson, Virg, Joel, Hendo and Fabinho right up the spine (you can add Thiago to that too), that team is not going to lose more than a couple of games. And when the front lads are firing as we know they can, we aren’t losing any. Don’t misunderstand me there, I’m not saying we’ll go unbeaten because I don’t expect the front lads to be firing every single game. But if we get Sadio and Bobby back to the level we expect, combined with Mo and Diogo doing what they do, who’s finishing above us? 

 

No-one, especially with the quality we have in the rest of the side. We’ll win this league if we don’t have major injury problems. I don’t have any doubts about that because the last time football was normal we were light years ahead of everybody. One freak season in empty stadiums and no centre halves isn’t going to change that.

 

Losing Robbo was a blow but hopefully he’s back soon. Kostas did well but he’s definitely better going forward than he is defending, and from about 70 minutes he was blowing out of his arse. Klopp said “someone pulled the plug on him” which was a great line and totally accurate. He looked shattered and started making mistakes. The other lads were on his case because it just seemed like his concentration went when he got tired.

 

I’m not worried about that though, this is new to him and playing full back in this team is demanding as fuck. I thought he looked a little uncomfortable defensively on occasion and that’s something to keep an eye on over the next few weeks until Robbo is back. He’ll have sterner tests than this (Chelsea especially), but I thought this was a good start for him.

 

Star man is Mo. Easy one that. For a while Trent was possibly running him close but by the end it was clear. Top class from him.

 

I have to end on a bit of a sour note though. The “Chelsea Rent Boy” chant directed at Billy Gilmour. *sigh* Firstly, it’s 2021 and that chant belongs firmly in the past. 99% of those signing it aren’t even meaning it in any kind of homophobic way but it doesn’t matter. Just pack it in.

 

I’ve got to be honest though, I think I’m more embarrassed that they were chanting it at Billy Gilmore than I am by the chant itself. What the fuck is that about? Unless he did something to incur the wrath of the away end that we weren’t privy to on the TV coverage, this is just incredibly small time and smacks of United fans giving abuse to the likes of Jordon Ibe or Harry Wilson just because they happened to play for us. Billy Gilmour isn’t John Terry, lads. Sort it out, we’re better than that.

 

Tell you what though, I cannot fucking wait until next weekend now. Seeing the TLW lads outside the ground before the game (most of us haven’t seen each other for 18 months!!), being back in my season ticket seat watching the boys again. It can’t come soon enough. Plus we really owe Burnley a spanking after the last two games we’ve had against them at Anfield. Fucking bring it on.

 

 

Team: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Fabinho), Keita (Elliott); Salah, Jota (Firmino), Mané:

 

 

Please note that this is a FREE sample and Match Reports are usually only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here. 

 

 

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I didn’t visit this site once during the pandemic because I figured the overall tone of the match reports would’ve been as miserable as I was largely feeling. Footy is back, fans are back and TLW is back, life is good again! Top report to round off a cracking weekend, already looking forward to your thoughts on the rest of the weekends matches 

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Oh how I missed these. Even last season when we were in the middle of that awful run I looked forward to this so nice to have them back.  As for last season if any season is to be null & void it should be that.  

Here's to a very successful league season for the reds. 

Lets' get out there and TWAT them!! 

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Good report Dave, totally agree with you about the title and couldnt believe some of the lads on the podcast.

 

What I liked about Jota's goal was he took it early and put his laces, or toe, through it. No one touch to control and lose the chance nor trying to place it. Just put fucking meat behind it and from that range, any keeper will have trouble with it.

 

Loved Bobby and Mo's goals. Shame Sadio couldnt get in on the act. Alli also produced a point blank save followed up by a couple of blocks. Last season, I think the ball would have ended in the net.

 

Im right up for the Burnley now. Just hope the club have this NFC ticket bollocks sorted, wont hold my breath!

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2 hours ago, tlw content said:

Having full stadiums again is probably worth 20 points to us right off the bat. I’m serious.

Too fucking right.

 

There's no way we'd have lost 6 on the bounce (or whatever the fuck it was) last season with a full crowd.

I'd be surprised of we hadn't have gone unbeaten at home again.

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Interesting to note that with the fans back most home sides won over the weekend. Ox was the only disappointment, also the feed I watched showed Virgils average speed was the slowest of all players , down to him reading the game so well and just being where he needed to be. 

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Excellent read. 

I'm with you in the optimism camp. Ignoring Covid and that anomaly of a non-season, our squad performed for two seasons at about a 100 point level, we've strengthened it and nobody has reached the past-it age except Milner and normal rules don't apply to him. 

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1 hour ago, aws said:

Excellent read. 

I'm with you in the optimism camp. Ignoring Covid and that anomaly of a non-season, our squad performed for two seasons at about a 100 point level, we've strengthened it and nobody has reached the past-it age except Milner and normal rules don't apply to him. 

 

It's all so clear when put like that.  

 

So fuck off, plague.

 

 

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You’re right about Cantwell he is a cunt , I remember the last time we played them at Carrow Road and that night he spent most of the game on the floor whinging for free kicks .
Fast forward two seasons and he’s exactly the same 

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48 minutes ago, Fred Oldfield said:

My only reservation about our title chances is the African Nations thing...it's in January isn't it?

Only affects two games at most I believe. 

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15 minutes ago, aws said:

Only affects two games at most I believe. 

Depends how far their teams progress, and how early we have to release the players before the tournament starts.

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We only have three games in January and the tournament starts more than a week after our New Year Day game so I can't see them missing that. Then we have Brentford and Palace during the tournament. The next game is three days after the final so any player in the final could be flown back and there's no jet lag issues. 

The biggest worry would be any quarantine requirements but otherwise the timing/fixtures couldn't be kinder to us. 

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I agree on us having the best first 11 and winning it this year barring more major injuries/chronic unavailability of key players. But, damningly for Guardiola, imagine if we even had the funds for Klopp to swap out Naby for someone more reliable and Origi for a proper back-up centre forward, which would largely remove the squad advantage he has.
 

Just no competition between the two whatsoever…as if Guardiola could do the job here that Klopp has without all his cheat codes.
 

I just have a hunch Grealish is going to be a Pogba style signing, where it doesn’t give bang for buck on a consistent basis, and the City fans lift their neighbours’ ‘What a waste of money’ bravado every 10 games when he scores a worldie.

 

I’d say a Shevchenko style signing, but, and I do think Grealish is a class player, that parallel can’t really be used given the levels Shevchenko had previously played at in comparison.

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https://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/first-team/440841-james-milner-reaction-incredible-return-of-fans-and-perfectionism

 

“I remember the first few times I stepped out when there was nobody there and coming out of the tunnel it was the first time it really hit you because normally when you step out of the tunnel you either get the roar or booed or something, anything would have done, but it was just quiet and that’s what really hit you.

 

“But having our fans here today singing all the way through and seeing them at the end, amazing to have them back and obviously it will be special next week at Anfield as well.

 

“We’ve missed them and hopefully we can keep putting in performances and getting results like today for them.”

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Our squad is strong and we should do better in the PL and CL compared to last season but I am worried about the African Cup of Nations taking place in January - if we lose Mo and Sadio for 1 month then I'm not sure we will be able to cope with just Jota and Firmino up top. 

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The players aren't the only ones with a spring in their step with fans and Virgil back. I could feel the buzz jumping out of the screen reading that, Dave.

 

Who knows? This excitement and positivity could take a couple of shots off your next round. Either that, or you'll just be so happy, you'll just play your normal round and not give a fuck.

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8 hours ago, aws said:

Excellent read. 

I'm with you in the optimism camp. Ignoring Covid and that anomaly of a non-season, our squad performed for two seasons at about a 100 point level, we've strengthened it and nobody has reached the past-it age except Milner and normal rules don't apply to him. 

Besides the 14 games anomaly mid-season last year, when we had no fit senior centre backs and our best 2 midfielders joined them in the treatment room, we have 253 points in our last 100 league games. 

Why the fuck do pundits, football journalists and "experts" seem to think that we are 4th favourites to win the league. Those senior centre backs (plus 1) and midfielders are available. I really don't get it. 

Brendan Rodgers was actually asked on Friday in his presser if just between the 2 x Mancs and Chelsea this year. He gave us a nod to be fair to him but how the fuck do people who get paid to talk/write about football get to be this unknowingly stupid?

I've said it already on here. Not only do I think we have a great chance, I think we should be clear favourites.

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