Here we are folks, the halfway stage of this very strange season. And the story so far is a story of ups and downs. As the old saying goes, you’re only as good as your last game. So, in that respect, we’ve not only been good. We’ve been excellent. Two very impressive away wins in London against tough opponents in Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham. In fact, before these last two fixtures, we were sandwiched in between the two of them.
West Ham were 4th, we were 5th and Spurs were 6th. After these two very impressive wins, this is no longer the situation. We are now in 3rd and looking ahead to our fixture next Sunday against leaders, Manchester City.
But, generally speaking, what is the story so far? On the European front, all good news there. Topping our group and scoring a shedload of goals. No complaints there despite a home loss wobble along the way. What about our domestic season though? The story so far on the domestic front is a bit more up and down.
Story So Far – A Few Ups and Downs
On the downside, we have suffered 3 league defeats and two domestic cup defeats. As important as the domestic cups are, the losses in the league hurt the most. Especially a 7-2 bladdering at Aston Villa. Or, thinking about it, maybe losing our unbeaten home record to Burnley hurt more? Every defeat hurts but weird as it sounds losing away to Southampton was not a big surprise to many. After all we were going through a sticky patch and arguably we were in the epicenter of the bad form storm when we played The Saints.
Overall though, 3rd in the league isn’t a bad place to be in. Especially as we are now in a much better vein of form. Not only that. We are 3rd even though we have suffered a horrendous run of injuries to key players throughout the season. Cliche quoting fans of other clubs will argue that you can’t blame injuries. All teams suffer injuries. And that is true. But so many injuries to so many key players all at the same time. If we are going to compare like with like, how many other sides have lost all of the senior centre backs all at the same time?
Anyone who follows football closely will know that the essence of a successful, strong side is to have a strong spine to the team. Look at all successful teams over the years. They all have a strong spine of solid keeper; centre half; central midfielder focal point and a quality centre forward. We have hardly had our strongest spine at all this season. If at all.
Alisson Becker has missed games. And of course, Virgil Van Dijk’s absence has been well publicised. Add Joe Gomez into the mix and this will see the resulting absence of Fabinho from his position as the central midfield spine of the side. Fair do’s to Bobby Firmino. He has started to show something like his best form in recent weeks, but for most of the part he has been hit and miss at best. So, credit where credit’s due. Third in the league having to combat all of that is pretty incredible really. Only 4 points behind Manchester City, albeit having played a game more.
Story So Far – Four Points Off Top
Talking of points, our points tally could be even better of course if a few refereeing decisions went our way. If they had, the so-called crisis we were in would have been well and truly a lower key affair. Now don’t get me wrong, the reduced points tally isn’t a moan against the officials. Well, I lie, it is in a way. It’s a moan in that we have suffered more than any with key decisions going against us. Yes, I know if affects all clubs. Look at the Danny Ings disallowed goal for Southampton against Aston Villa last week. And the penalty they didn’t get for a Matty Cash handball.
Just look at that handball incident. Matty Cash = no handball and yet Bobby Firmino against Spurs = handball. Let’s remind us about the Bobby Firmino incident. Eric Dier is grabbing and pulling Bobby from behind and touches the ball first with his arm. His contact with the ball, combined with him pulling Bobby all over the place resulted in Bobby touching the ball with his arm. The incident was on the halfway line. From there on, how many passes? The end result after the halfway line incident was a great finish from Mo Salah.
Cue Martin Atkinson and his inevitable impact on the game.
Atkinson No Goal Decision – No Surprise There
If you read my blog posts you may remember a blog post I made after our 1-1 draw with Leicester at Anfield in January 2019. You can read the post HERE. You may also remember the game. With the score at 1-1, Naby Keita drove into the box at The Kop end. Just as he was about to shoot, he was brought down. No dive. He was clearly brought down. Atkinson had a clear view of it. The perceived reason as to why he didn’t give a penalty? Because he didn’t want to was the logical conclusion.
The no penalty decision is also related to my belief that referees should be accountable. He should have been asked why he didn’t give the penalty back then against Leicester and he should have been asked about the handball last week against Spurs.
Let’s take a look at the handball rules.
Handball Rule – Look At The Last Point
With that rule in focus, it should be a requirement of the game that a referee should be accountable and he should be made to talk us through his decision. With Dier dragging Firmino all over the place and handling the ball first himself, was Firmino’s handling deliberate? The only one who can answer that is Bobby himself of course. But, specifically focusing on the last point in the handball rule above, Atkinson himself decided that it was deliberate. He had a clear view of Dier dragging Bobby all over the place and either didn’t think it was a foul. Or, he decided to play on. Several passes later, a goal for Liverpool.
I think every Liverpool fan knew the outcome as soon as they saw Atkinson trotting over to the touchline. Of course he could equally have seen the incident as either a foul on Bobby, or an accidental handball and stick with his original decision he made in live play and that was, play on. But as we know from above, Atkinson has history. He gave the decision he wanted to give, so no goal (again) for Liverpool.
Story So Far If Marginal Decisions Went In Our Favour
Fortunately the disallowed goal didn’t have an impact on the result. But it could have done. And, as I say, other teams have suffered from dubious decisions but the figures don’t lie, we’ve suffered more than anyone else. As Rafa would say, facts!!! So, again to re-iterate it isn’t only a moan against the inadequate officials we have, it is a mention of ‘what if”
Let’s look at just two of the decisions that went against us. No one anywhere would have been surprised if Jordan Henderson’s goal against Everton was allowed. Or Mo Salah’s goal against Brighton. There’s an extra four points. “Crisis” averted by two decisions that could just as easily go in our favour.
However, as I said to a fellow Red recently, in a way not getting these decisions ensured that we could not paper over the cracks of poor performances by pointing to the points tally and elevated position in the table. So, every cloud and all that. What impact will it all have on the season though? Only time will tell. I think a lot of clubs are just looking to get to the end of the season in as good as a shape as they can. As already said, it is a strange season for everyone in all leagues.
Swings and roundabouts throughout a season with regard to referee’s decisions without a doubt. Do they balance out though? No, not at all.
Story So Far – More Good Points
As bad as the injury crisis has been, there have been some positive points as a result. When TAA was out, Neco Williams had to step up to the plate. Yes, he had a few shaky moments but the longer he played, the more accomplished he became.
And what about Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips. Two more players with valuable experience now under their belts. Yes, Williams in particular, has had some hairy moments, but let’s be clear here. He’s a young 19 year old who has been thrust into the limelight a lot sooner than he or Jurgen Klopp expected. Not his fault he maybe needed another six months in the background but circumstances didn’t allow it.
As for Nat Phillips, what an impressive step up to first team action. I had seen him play for the reserves a couple of times before and I must admit, I was very impressed with him then. So, to see him hold his own in such better company is not a huge surprise to be honest.
And now of course we have the added cushion of new centre backs arriving. Will they be the answer? Again, only time will tell. But as ever, in Jurgen (and Michael Edwards) we trust.
Welcome To Anfield
Before I go, a big welcome to the Anfield family to ben davies and Ozan Kabak. We definitely needed centre backs and fair do’s Michael Edwards delivered. A very good friend of mine, who works in the game and has done for many years, told me two things in the week that Klopp was appointed manager. The first thing was that we shouldn’t be surprised if Klopp signs players we haven’t really heard of, or are not big stars. Don’t worry, trust him was the message. He knows what he’s doing.
The second thing he said was that Klopp would win us the league. Correct on both counts.
Good Luck Minamino
On a final note, best of luck to Takumi Minamino on his loan move to Southampton. It has been reported that we refused Southampton’s request to include an option to buy at the end of his loan spell. This suggests that may well still be a future for him at Anfield. I hope so. After seeing him rip into us when he played against us for Salzberg, it looked like we got ourselves a very special player.
But, if the stories are true, that settling down has been a problem, then it is no big surprise that his form has been sketchy. A new club, a new country, a foreign language on top of Covid lockdowns would inhibit many, if not all players.
Maybe that’s why Werner and Havertz seem to be struggling at Chelsea?
Indeed difficult times in a difficult season. The story so far though hasn’t been a bad one has it. Full steam ahead for the second half of the season. Let’s see where we get to.
Stay safe everyone.
Thanks for reading my latest blog post – “Story So Far Halfway Through The Season”
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