Anthony McIntyre is unruffled by Liverpool FC's recent run of poor results.
There have been some wobbles of late, but this season’s Liverpool team have the coveted Premier League title after a thirty-year absence from the top drawer of British soccer. Not yet in the bag to take home it has been paid for handsomely in advance, no longer on display in the shop window for another bidder to try their luck. A one-horse race, what is left in the field courtesy of arithmetic has neither the clout nor the capability to affect the outcome. Mane not Math makes the difference.
Defeat to some side beneath it – there is no other - was always going to happen this season. Watford was the lair from which the Venus Flytrap would snatch an unsuspecting liver bird, out for an easy meal. What a salutary invitation that was to solve the conundrum of how to expect what you don’t expect. The outcome, given the respective placings of both clubs in the league table, was the bigger surprise. It did not flatter Watford but was an accurate reflection of the respective overperformance and underperformance on the day.
Defeat was always on the cards because this current Liverpool side have for the most part scrapped and scraped for its victories. They have won with plodding determination, rather than flair and fluency. Despite being world champions, they have not remotely come close to serving up the hi octane panache of the great Barcelona side. Often, they have been pedestrian as they rode their good fortune, waiting until sunset before swooping on their prey, yet all the time flying precariously close to the sun. At Vicarage Road they finally got burned, and bad.
It is inevitable they will become champions. It was also inevitable that as a result of too many close encounters the moment would emerge where the late redeeming finish was not to come, the clock would run out, chiming with the abracadabra minute of magic being replaced with mediocrity. Throughout the season the difference in league points was rarely made manifest on the day, where Liverpool frequently chiselled out a points victory rather than land a clear knockout. It was a team that game-to-game only occasionally looked vastly superior to the opposition. The label “Invincible” given to it by a media depicted the team strutting like a peacock when frequently it played like a pig. But that is what makes for soccer, the grind not the grandeur.
For Liverpool the failure at Watford was systemic: worst display of the season at either end of the field. The FC Cup defeat to Chelsea, nowhere near as sobering. Saturday’s 2-1 home win against strugglers makes the fan glad Bournemouth was the opposition. The real test of this team’s mettle will come against Atletico Madrid not perennial relegation battlers. Still it is nothing for LFC fans to get worried about as far as the English Premiership is concerned. It is too late in the day for that. Failure now can only come from a cataclysmic collapse not of football’s making. If the Premiership does not go to Anfield it will go nowhere else other than the Corona trophy cabinet.
The chances of the Corona virus bringing the curtain down on proceedings remains very low. It is hard to see soccer fixtures being banned within the next couple of weeks. But depending on the seriousness of the situation, the UK government might feel compelled to have sans spectator matches, much like Italy did yesterday. France too has taken to limiting crowd size to 1000. That would be an enormous blow to the fans: a huge deflation of the spectacle, the anti-climax when the summit was reached but there was nothing on top but health warnings. Not even a victory parade through the city of the liver bird – again because of the health risk association with crowds.
The fans merit the sweet taste of success. Maligned and lied about for years by police and press, the “fuck you” moment is tantalisingly close. The team will deliver the Inevitable, which is all it promised, not the Invincible. Liverpool should administer the coup de grâce and quickly: step up before shut down is complete. Even if some fans don’t get to savour the victory for long, they will have at least lived long enough to see it.