After last night's exit from the Champions League, Liverpool is a good team not a great one, writes Anthony McIntyre.
Only once in the club's history has Liverpool managed to retain their European crown. It came with the 1978 dull Wembley victory over FC Bruges. To let the trophy slip from its grasp last night against that backdrop should therefore come as no surprise. But the 2-3 home defeat to Atletico Madrid will come as a huge disappointment to the fans who paid for better and simply did not get value for money.
Jurgen Klopp's side is not a great team, just a good one. Great teams don't lose four matches out of five to any old side that comes along. Even good teams need an extradoinarily run of bad luck to mange that. It is just as well that the Premier League title is virtually in the bag, otherwise fans would drop their heads in despair. When Virgil Van Dijk claims that the team has "been outstanding the whole season", the outcome thus far has been outstanding but the performances game to game have often been anything but. It has become monotonous to hear Liverpool praised for having won without being anywhere near their best. A title race run-in like last year's - even though the Merseysiders blew it through a series of gratuitous draws - would have seen the fans die on their feet and not from Covid 19. Were the current Manchester City squad firing on all cylinders it is doubtful if Liverpool would be up to the task, inspiring no confidence that it could withstand the pressure.
When the third Atletico goal was scored I headed for bed, with seconds remaining. Atletico came to the Cauldron of Anfield and survived the test of fire. Liverpool's mettle was tested and they were found out as not having it, or not enough of it to be classed as a great team. I had felt that the real test for this side would be against Atletico in pursuit of a trophy yet to be won, not Watford in a tournament already mastered. My wife said "don't be so depressed." I was annoyed, not depressed. I genuinely had felt the team would step up to the plate, only to be proven wrong.
The game underscores the value of a quality keeper, which Atletico certainly had. Despite Klopp's reticence towards a harsh appraisal Adrián most definitely isn't a top drawer goalie. At Chelsea during last week's FA Cup clash he fumbled the ball into his own net. Last night the howler was of an even greater magnitude when with his side cruising he gifted Atletico a goal from nothing other than his own cretinous distribution. It put Liverpool back to where they were at the start of the game, leaving the players with another two to score to make it through to the last eight, and with much less time to do it in. It was a Karius moment, making Adrián eligible for a one way ticket to Turkey. His contribution to the game was such that Liverpool would have been better with no one between the sticks. Eleven outfield players including one in the old sweeper role just to tidy up at the back would have done better. A Spaniard, maybe the language of his opponents on the night beguiled him. Unable to hold down a regular spot in the West Ham goal the London side let him go and Liverpool picked him up … on its shoe. As one of the watching pundits observed, he was let go for a reason. Now there is an even better reason to let him go again.
That is twice this season that Alisson has been out due to injury. It might be a blip but it is not something that bodes well for the future. Stability in goal is essential. If he does not return, and quickly, the jitters that radiate out from a wobbling goal line might just make the wait for the title a little longer than anticipated. And by then Covid 19 …