So this is what it feels like to lose a premier league game. Get slaughtered, really.
It has been such a deliriously impossible 14 months in which the Reds haven’t, that as an avowed fan it has become a bit difficult to remember. Sure, the occasional champions league defeat would serve as the rare notice, but the premier league seemed too small, too weak, too cowardly, too… inadequate in the face of the horde from merseyside.
Well, the Hornets today buzzed, and they swarmed, and they did not lack for courage, determination, strength or grit. They earned this result.
In the process, they probably set the record for the number of records that, by winning, they have disrupted. Longest winning streak. Season without failing to score. First and only time Liverpool shipped 3 in a game in a season. May not break the earliest time to win the league, either by date or remaining games. I’m sure there are plenty others. Arsenal (and, I suppose, Preston North End) fans may rejoice knowing that their Invincibles will maintain their unusual record. Who knows? Liverpool may not even beat City’s century after all.
Not that any of that will stop the Reds from being champions, which only serves to illustrate just how remarkable this season has been so far. Why this loss, one that would seem only slightly unusual in the business end of a season against a team fighting for its life and led by a brilliant manager who is a specialist in survival jobs, suddenly seems as monumental, as massive, as titanic as the explosion of a star. Not to take anything away from Watford; when I suggested after the last time Liverpool played them that we might very well be witness to another Pearson miracle, little did I suspect that they would underscore that point against the Reds themselves, and certainly not in such fashion.
I’m struggling to find anything to say about the game itself. It was, for the most part, pretty boring. Watford got their chances because the Liverpool backline was downright awful, and they capitalized almost every time. On a scale of 1 to 10, Lovren earned a tidy 2, and Van Dijk finding the time to tidy up his bun early in the second half to almost lose another ball pretty much epitomized his performance. Ismaila Saar was man of the match – easily – and could have ended up with a hat-trick, except for Alisson, who was not at fault for any of the goals, and saved a couple. Jordan Henderson was sorely missed, and I suspect that the result would have been different had he, or even Millie, been available.
Instead, I will suggest that two positives have come out of this showing.
The first is that Liverpool clearly needed a kick in the arse – or is it a sting in the face? Anemic performances can only get you so far, and the team has been coasting for a while. Atletico will not care about how big the gap is at the top of the league, and the timing of this particular wake-up call is quite fortunate. A good solid reminder that losing is a possibility was necessary, and delivered emphatically. That the result was lopsided makes this even better.
Second, taking so many records off the table will relieve the pressure, probably in dramatic fashion. Records are nice if they happen, but as any pro and Jurgen Klopp will tell you, they are not what actually matters. Winning things is what one cares about. Mentality monsters these players may be, but even they are human. It’s difficult enough to focus on each game individually. The weight of record streaks is almost too much.
The champions elect will have to wait a wee bit longer for the official crowning, and may get to meet those angry bees again in the next premier league season.
For something that feels so dramatic, the actual implications seem rather mild.