Oh Liverpool, Liverpool.
First, let’s clear one thing: VAR was right with all three occasions. Salah was offside, as was Mane, and though it sucks to have two goals chalked off this way, there was nothing particularly wrong about either decision. At least not when the same system often calls goals off for far more marginal offsides than those two. And Robbo indeed gave Danny Welbeck an uncalled-for (and painful) tap on the side of his foot, something that nobody caught except VAR, and were it at the other end of the pitch, I’d be screaming my head off at the TV. The problem there was with the ever-so-energetic Robbo, who simply had no business indulging in that kick; Welbeck never really had control of the ball. That said, that same ball was frequently surprising the players on both sides due to an extremely wet pitch and that can lead to these kinds of moments.
And in all fairness, let’s be clear about something else: the Seagulls were worth the point, and maybe even all three. They earned it. Even after Connolly, whom I felt was excellent until he was replaced, missed a sitter, and Maupay pulled a De Bruyne with his penalty attempt, they were still worth it. At the same time, the Reds were worth three points as well, in that way that champions can grind results in games like this, and seemed to have done precisely that before Robbo’s unfortunate moment in the end.
For a game like this to end in a draw seems fair to both sides. The emotions for us fans that come with it are simply what makes this football thing so darn addictive to watch. Still, getting pinged in the dying moments of a tight game due to loss of concentration brings back some uncomfortable, fairly recent memories.
Like they say, too soon.
Liverpool is struggling away from Anfield at the moment, and were it not for the team’s remarkable at-home record, it would be nowhere near the top of the table right now. That has to be a major concern. It’s hard to put it down to all those injuries in the back line, because it seems stable enough even with all the makeshift pairings. Nat and Fab did well again today, the former perhaps a bit better than the latter until Neco Williams was taken off and old man Milner took right-back. That seemed to improve communications. But then Millie got himself on the miles-long injury list, and the momentum that Liverpool had built up following Jota’s opener (a routine occurrence, this) went the way of the dodo. Speaking of Jota, he can have the man of the match award, because somebody has to get it, and he worked hard the whole game and importantly, scored the one goal that actually stood.
It also seemed to indicate a bit of the larger problem – the focus on fortifying the back can take a bit away from going forward. You feel as if the Reds can do more, and sometimes they do (ask the Foxes), but there is a rhythm that needs to develop to make this intricate machine work the way it should, and it just isn’t present quite yet with all these different lineups. The same, of course, can be said for any of the other clubs involved in continental competitions, and this gives the smaller teams an edge they appear to be using rather effectively.
And so this December is shaping up to be the most exciting the premier league has seen in years, promising twists and turns and unexpected results all over the place. There doesn’t seem to be an emerging dominant side, all the big teams are struggling, and who knows what the table will look like come January. Time to enjoy all the immense quality that the premier league has to offer, and remember this:
The only tally that matters is the one at the end of May.