Jurgen Klopp famously told us upon his arrival back in 2015 that he would turn doubters into believers.
In fairness, that’s exactly what he did. Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup, Premier League. Not a bad return from a side whose financial power in the transfer market is akin to a mid-table team rather than a challenger.
The fans, home and away, have been a huge part of the journey and Klopp himself would loudly declare it wouldn’t have possible without them. Just look at how we performed behind closed doors last season as evidence.
Yet with Manchester City establishing a decent lead at the top of the table, the atmosphere at Anfield recently has been… poor.
The League Cup semi-final first-leg v Arsenal was under the lights, but the flat performance on the field mirrored that in the stands. This in many ways is a chicken and egg dilemma. Is the passive football silencing the crowd or are the players docile due to lethargic support? I’m of the school that is a supporters job to support regardless – especially to a team and manager who have given us so much.
Anfield versus Brentford was more explainable due to it being a Sunday afternoon – but the argument that the performance didn’t inspire doesn’t really hold up – given we won 3-0 and had 27 shots on goal, including one off the line, one off the post and two one-on-ones.
Sitting in the Main Stand was an odd sensation – although it’s obviously not a one-off with the earlier kick-offs. Fans were very quiet, with some loudly and sarcastically annoyed at the non-singers. It made for a strange atmosphere, especially when the Reds were playing some nice stuff. The reasons for this are likely tenfold, but it’s not too much to ask to be noisy, supportive and enjoy the experience – whether you’re a season ticket holder, a tourist or anything in between. This isn’t a criticism of non-local fans, by the way – often the most passive are the ones who’ve been sat in the same seat for 20 years.
Have we become a little spoilt? Maybe. Football supporting is about expectations – and the expectation now under Klopp is that we should win the title – even though we’re up against an oil-rich, state-backed rival – who have completely altered the benchmark of what it takes to finish 1st. In yesteryear, a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge would be considered a decent result, but now, it’s two points dropped.
At this stage of the Premier League season, Liverpool have seven more points than Manchester United did when they won the treble, yet the general feeling is that we’ve slipped up and perhaps this has deflated Anfield – which at the beginning of the campaign – loudly declared: ‘The Reds have got no money, but we’ll still win the league.’
Will City win the title? Probably. But who knows; perhaps COVID will ravage them, perhaps they’ll get some horrendous luck and start dropping a few points! It’s unlikely, but who would have thought Chelsea’s wheels would’ve fallen off in the manner they have back in November?
The key for Liverpool fans is to enjoy, believe and support. After all, we’re one leg away from a Wembley Final, sit second place in the table and are very well-set in the Champions League – having won six out of six group games.
What’s more, this will be the hardest part of the season, without our two best attackers in Mo Salah and Sadio Mane – but we’ve got through one of the Premier League games in their absence and just have one more to go at the weekend versus Crystal Palace.
Many of the squad have now already had COVID, so won’t be a risk of getting it again before the end of the season. Our midfield has lacked in zest and creation, but Curtis Jones has returned well and Harvey Elliott is back in full training. January is always a horrible month under Klopp, but we’re also traditionally very good in the Spring and the season’s end – so providing we’re still in contention – who knows what will happen.
Most of the negativity surrounding the team online regards the lack of transfer activity and no news about Salah’s extension. This is justified in part. We do need a little freshening up of the squad, which would likely invigorate a crowd who always love to see new players, too. This though is a separate point, and annoyance at the owners for not spending more money shouldn’t translate to displeasure in the stadium or on Twitter at the current lot.
Lastly, a word on the (hopefully) upcoming Arsenal clash. Their fans completely lost the plot when Liverpool were hit with an array of suspected positive COVID tests. The game was called off, as per EFL rules – and Gunners far and wide cried conspiracy….
Now, a side that has loaned out THREE players this month is trying to get the second-leg postponed, despite having only ONE player absent through COVID. The other players not available are at the AFCON, suspended or injured. I’m not even averse to their request to postpone if it’s within the rules – but their angriest fans must be feeling pretty silly. I wonder if they’re labelling Mikel Arteta a cheat and a conman…? We’ll see!