Regular readers will by now know - and be bored knowing - that watching Liverpool play live soccer is not something I find agreeable these days. Having switched off at half time during an abysmal display against West Ham earlier this year, I have not watched them since other than a smattering of minutes during a game against Everton. Masochism might be for some, but I don’t figure amongst their number.
Yesterday afternoon I headed off to town to pick up a few things, most notably a Mother’s Day gift. I left it late, very late. When I returned home, NCIS was on the television, and I made neither a move nor a suggestion to switch it to anything else. Once it ended, I nonchalantly flicked the channels in search of the latest scores and, more fortuitously than anything else, came across Liverpool in action against Tottenham. They too, just like me, left things late on Mother’s Day, squeezing a win in the dying minutes of the game courtesy of a Mo Salah-forced Spurs own goal.
Tempted to immediately turn it off to remain consistent with my decision to abandon them to their whims, I allowed myself just a quick peek which lasted until the last kick of the game. Long story short, I cheated myself. The only saving grace was that on this occasion I looked upon what unfolded in front of me with a dispassion that largely amounted to indifference. The worried expressions on the faces of the fans as the game progressed - regressed might be a better characterisation - weakened my resolve and tilted my emotions towards the red lot in front of me but admittedly without any great enthusiasm or fondness.
Even a draw in this home fixture would have flattered a most unimpressive Liverpool side. The best player this year sat on the bench for the bulk of the game. How he was meant to influence the game from there is something Jurgen Klopp alone knows. When he eventually came on, Fabinho began winning balls that others were prepared to parry rather than sieze. The unimaginative midfield combo of Milner-Henderson who created no more from the pitch than Fabinho did from the bench, does not work whatever the individual talents of both. Yet it was retained in position, operating as if it it were a bureaucracy. The best definition of a bureaucrat is that from James Boren: someone with a pencil that has a rubber at either end. Plenty of pencil twiddling energy from the Liverpool midfield duo but nothing to show at the end of it all.
Then when the lead was secured against the odds with only minutes remaining Lovren is put on, even though April Fool's Day is today, not yesterday. It was not a move necessitated by a limping Van Dijk whose sublime off the ball decision making in front of goal, during which he sustained the niggle, is what really secured the Merseyside men the three points. Lovren replaced Salah, the man who had forced the goal. It is understandable that Klopp would want to strengthen his backline with two minutes to run down on the clock: why, paradoxically, he would want to weaken it with Lovren when he could as easily have pulled Fabinho back from midfield and thrown in Shaqiri, is again inexplicable to all but himself. A team that is already chronically nervous will not have the Xanax effect induced by the insertion of Lovren. The German has us squirming and we know not why.
Another stuttering, stumbling performance, lacking in panache or potential, the only hope for Liverpool is that Manchester City might start playing as badly as them in the home straight.