Thanks to James McPherson for this guest piece!
Like most Liverpool Supporters following the defeats to Swansea and WBA, I am disappointed, confused and more than a little angry.
The spectacular 4-3 victory against Champions Elect Manchester City, a performance that showed determination, guts, and moments of magic, should have been a stepping stone. An opportunity for us to kick on, put the loss of Coutinho behind us, and continue to progress under Klopp.
As it seems to have been for the past decade for Liverpool, it may be a case of one step forward, and two backwards.
I do not want to appear negative. Eighteen games unbeaten is a fair achievement. Our attack, without Coutinho, at times is frightening. Van Dijk, the heralded savior of our defensive woes had finally signed on the dotted line.
Regardless of the above, there still seems to be one vital piece of the jigsaw missing for Liverpool, all too often.
A conversation with my dad during the first half against WBA in the FA Cup got me thinking about this. He is from a generation where he watched magicians in all areas of the park for Liverpool regularly. Where Liverpool were THE heavyweight of European Football. World Football even.
It isn’t the trickery of Barnes, the footballing brains of King Kenny, or the predatory instincts of Rush that Klopp’s team is necessarily missing however.
It’s the fighters. The Leaders. The steeliness of a Souness. The gamesmanship of a Gerrard. The callousness of a Carragher.
Real Blood and Thunder Players. Players that would give no quarter. Who would leave everything on the pitch every single time they touched that famous Anfield Sign in the tunnel. By God they had ability. They weren’t only fighters.
What really separates them however, was their determination. Jimmy Case, running up and down the wing for 90 minutes would not be intimidated, pushed around or let his head drop. Periods of poor play in a game seemed to rile these players.
The Liverpool of the 70s and 80s were offended if they were being beaten our outplayed. They were the best. The cream of the crop. They still lost on occasion. Loss derived from losses in concentration, or moments of magic from their opposition. They were rarely beaten through a lack of trying though.
Can the players of today’s generation even compare to these legends of our past?
In their ability, some could. The players of today however are of a different breed. Heads go down too often. They are outworked by their opposition. They let frustration get the better of them.
The most confusing part of all is that this seems to be against the “Lesser Teams” that heads go down. Klopp’s team turn up, on the most part, against the big clubs. It’s remaining calm against the teams they should be beating, that this goes out of the window.
Will this change in the near future?
I certainly hope so. The signing of Van Dijk is certainly promising. Future Captain material he may be. It is in the midfield however, where I think Liverpool lack leaders the most.
Emre Can turned up against Manchester City, no doubt. Against WBA, Liverpool looked better when the much-maligned Jordan Henderson took his place.
Naby Keita may be someone next year that can take on a leader’s role in the midfield regularly. For me, Klopp can buy all the mercurial talent he likes in any transfer window, January or otherwise.
Its leaders I want.