Tom's Take #1 // Liverpool's Lost Opportunity
Here it is, the blog that much like an iOS update you probably didn’t think you needed but soon learned to embrace when you realised fighting it was more trouble than it’s worth. Not content with limiting my warped perspectives on things to the weekly podcast or longer article features, you can now enjoy/endure some twisted takes in another forum. It seems only right to start with a Liverpool game.
It’s a strange irony that a missed opportunity can feel more devastating than never getting an opportunity in the first place. No-one expected Newcastle to overcome Manchester City - in fact a club that is always waiting to crown a Messiah might have to look at how many more miracles of biblical proportions Rafa can produce. Win they did however and social media told us the Premier League title was being delivered first class to Anfield, (with most opposition fans hoping Prince Philip was the delivery driver apparently).
Yet any premature celebrations amongst Liverpudlians were quickly curtailed by a shaky, sloppy performance against Leicester that hinted at the larger consequences looming over each game from this point onward. The burden of expectation seemed to weigh heavily on the shoulders of most of those in red. They approached the game with the tension and apprehension of a cup final without the intensity to match. An early goal only seemed to heighten this tension - like a metaphor for their lead in the league table, they now had something to protect. There was a feeling that Liverpool needed to win this game and too many shied away from the big occasion or were found wanting in the ideas department. Yet paradoxically, had Man City strolled to a routine victory over Newcastle this pressure for Liverpool to win would have been similarly routine - a standard home game that no-one over-analysed or over-invested in. As a result, a failed opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points has left an unshakeable feeling of disappointment that is masquerading in the minds of the masses as points lost rather than one gained.
The reason for this? Ultimately Man City aren’t going to present many opportunities. Like a world championship boxing bout, if you’ve got the champion on the ropes you don’t let him off the hook, regardless of how good you’ve looked until this point. Down the stretch City are the proven entities, Liverpool the unproven pretenders. To carry on the boxing analogy they have little experience in their ranks when it comes to the championship rounds and if the Leicester game is anything to go by they’ve gone back to their corner at the end of the 7th round with some nerves beginning to show.
Fans and players alike need to show a composure that belies the 29-year wait for a title. It’s not yet February and there are still 14 Premier League games to play. Despite Twitter melting down like a ginger lad backpacking in the Outback at every twist and turn in the title race, there’s still a long way to go. If you thought the heat was on when City dropped points, it’ll feel like jumping out of the sunbed and into the fire when they put a team to the sword the night before you play. This week was NOT the end of the world - I’m not sure any Liverpool fan envisaged being disappointed at only being five points clear at the top. But let this be a warning from those who have witnessed Liverpool squander the same lead with just three games left to play; City aren’t normally too generous - when they give you a gift, make sure you don’t regret leaving it on the table.