Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. It’s incredible how a couple of weeks can change your entire beliefs in football; Sunderland looked dead and Liverpool looked like being crowned champions was only a formality. What a funny thing football is, just when you think you know what’s happening it turns out that you were so damn wrong. Just for the record, Liverpool have bottled winning the Premier League, they choked.
I wanted to write this after the Chelsea game but decided to hold off because I would have looked pretty silly if City ended up making a mess of it again, thankfully Liverpool look like they’ve thrown it away all by themselves. Liverpool can no longer win the league, the chances of City dropping more than 2 points in games at home to West Ham and Aston Villa are little to none. That must be hard reading for Liverpool fans but if you think you still have a chance you are living in a dreamland.
Liverpool were on an incredible run since the turn of the year; 16 wins and 2 draws and an eleven game winning streak heading into the Chelsea game. Now there is no disgrace in ever dropping points to a Jose Mourinho coached team, but going into the game Chelsea couldn’t win the league and it was sandwiched between two highly important Champions League semi-final ties against Atletico Madrid, on top of that they put out what can only be called half a team. So surely Liverpool with all their momentum could go in and wipe the floor with Chelsea…in fact they didn’t need to wipe the floor with them, a 0-0 draw would be more than enough to put Liverpool on course for their first league title for over twenty years. Instead Liverpool played the game like a bunch of novices who didn’t know what to do when a team doesn’t try and play against them. It was an embarrassing display from Liverpool; they created almost no opportunities and acted incredibly petulant at Chelsea’s antics, not realising that this was exactly what Chelsea wanted them to do.
Now I’m sure we can all agree that the Steven Gerrard slip and Demba Ba goal was funny as was the subsequent shoot from any silly position display which Gerrard gave us, but you have to feel sorry for him because he knows this is his last chance at realistically winning the Premier League. That’s the thing with Liverpool, this team shouldn’t be good enough to challenge for the league, the fact that they have is a remarkable achievement for both the players and the management. However that is the thing, next year Liverpool will be lucky to finish top four because with the new distraction of Champions League football and the inevitable improvement of the teams around them, this was their one chance. After all Liverpool fans won’t want to accept this but they are a one man team, and when that one man doesn’t show up they struggle.
Liverpool have been a team of luck this season, what seemed liked endless luck, but luck can only take you so far and in this occasion it took Liverpool far enough to get the hopes of their fans up only to shatter them as the team came back to reality.
Which brings me to the fans; oh dear, I respect the Liverpool fans but damn they are yappy. This isn’t hard for me to go into the archives and pick up on comments from Liverpool fans to me after I criticised their team, here’s my favourite: “That being said this isn’t about the past, it’s about now, today” bit awkward when you don’t go on and win the league…, but oh well. Yes Liverpool fans are yappy, they love to talk about Liverpool like they have been a relevant club for the past twenty years despite the fact they haven’t been, they love to talk about Liverpool as if they are still the biggest club in England when they aren’t and they love to think that Jamie Carragher is a great pundit when he clearly isn’t. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the fans cost Liverpool the title because after all they aren’t the ones playing on the pitch, but I think if you talk to Chelsea players or fans about this you will find that the sheer arrogance which the Liverpool fans had prior to the Chelsea match was one of the reasons why Chelsea were so spirited in their win. The media, the fans and the players all acted as if the Chelsea result and Liverpool’s winning of the league was a formality, which of course it was until the choking started and the bottle went. There’s a reason why you don’t count your chickens before they hatch, because maybe Jose Mourinho comes round and fancies some scrambled eggs.
For me Liverpool’s worst result of the season was when Chelsea lost 2-1 to Sunderland, because all of a sudden Liverpool went from being unlikely but possible winners to heavy heavy favourites. The entire season I kept saying Liverpool wouldn’t win the league because in the end one of the better teams would come good, but after this result I started to believe that Liverpool’s winning of the league was almost a formality. Given the circumstances Liverpool had four very easy games where 10 points were needed with which to win the league, they should have got them, the reason they didn’t is because they let the pressure of expectation get to them, it’s as simple as that.
The one word which describes Liverpool’s title challenge is momentum; it felt in the run in that every bounce of the ball, every refereeing decision and every game just went Liverpool’s way. The problem with momentum is that when it stops it does so dramatically and Liverpool’s momentum was no different. After losing for the first time this calendar year Liverpool follow that result up with what can only be called an embarrassing 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace. In reality drawing at Palace currently isn’t an embarrassing result, but when you’re 3-0 up with less than 15 minutes to go you probably shouldn’t be losing points. Much like in the Chelsea game, the Liverpool players looked incredibly naïve as Palace stormed back out of nowhere and made what was a nothing game into the stuff of nightmares for Liverpool. The thing is Liverpool probably wouldn’t have won the league anyway if they had won against Palace, but you have to ask the question, City have shown in the past that they don’t react well under pressure, you must put it on them.
There is one thing that you must always do when you lose and that is stay classy, something which Liverpool refrained from doing (the sign that you don’t have a big club mentality). Two situations spring to mind for me of this; firstly Brendan Rodgers comments after the Chelsea defeat, who cares if they parked the bus you couldn’t adapt and got tactically outclassed, it comes off as incredibly petty when a manager blames the other teams tactics (non-cheating ones) as the reason for losing, who cares if you were the only team playing football (which is questionable because your team played shit)? The answer is no one, grow up and realise that not every team is stupid enough to give your players the space they require for you to be successful. The second situation is after Chelsea lost to Atletico Madrid, why are the Liverpool players going on Twitter celebrating their loss and saying that this is justice? Maybe if they were concentrating more on Crystal Palace and a little less on Chelsea they wouldn’t have blown their title chances right out of the water. Stay classy Liverpool!
In many ways you feel sorry for Liverpool because they do have a great set of fans (even if I don’t particularly like them), they have played the best football in the league and it was a nice underdog story, but in reality they were never really good enough to win the league. It will be a big summer for Liverpool because they are now a big scalp again, teams will know how to play against them, next year there will be high expectations and they are at least five (probably more) big contributing players away from being able to put themselves in this position again. Liverpool fans won’t want to read this but that is how it will be.