The Real Test Lies Ahead for Liverpool and Supporters Alike

It’s tempting to overthink the importance of a single moment, just like it’s tempting at times to see things in black and white terms. If this happens, then that will follow, but if that happens, then it will be this.

We do it in our lives all the time. “Things were never the same after that,” is a sentence you’ve heard before, most likely describing the evolution of something that was always evolving anyhow, there was simply a moment that someone became more aware of it than before.

Very little in life actually plays out in such contrasted and clear terms. Liverpool could have easily lost against Manchester City on Sunday, a match that had seemingly been billed as the game of your life, in fact, all of our lives, regardless of age.

It almost seems logical to do this at times as of course, it is a key moment in the season. You get but two chances to take points off your title rivals each season, and this was a big opportunity for the Reds. Fans and pundits alike came in thinking it would define the season and the winner would claim the Premier League title.

That’s all well and good for the promo montage on the telly, but the reality is something different. The reality is that the season is never defined in a single moment or broken in another. Success is only at the finish line. We know this all too well. It was just eight years ago that they billed an April tie between these same two clubs as a title decider. You remember what happened, don’t you?

We Came Out On Top

We had an even shorter run-in then, that the Reds face now. The title was in our grasp, but it wasn’t to be. Everyone from Reds to opposing fans and TV producers has spent the following years dwelling on the idea that the season was lost with an infamous slip against Chelsea.

A more reasonable person understands that this simply isn’t a reality. That there were too many lackluster results early in the season. Losing at both City and Chelsea was one thing, but losing away to Hull and draws against the likes of Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace over the course of that season was what was really too much to bear.

That’s the thing about football. That season shocked us and the results at times made no sense. In football as in life, the next logical thing is never guaranteed to happen. We could have won the match on Sunday, with no guarantee whatsoever that the Reds would triumph in every game the rest of the way to lift the Premier League trophy.

All a win would have done is change our perception of what to expect from them and heap mounds of pressure on the team, the pressure that now rests on the shoulders of the defending champions. Slip up just once, and they’ll feel as though the Reds will be there to clean up after them.

What’s Next for City?

City has just put in an incredible performance and emerged from a difficult game still in pole position as they head into a tough midweek test against Athletico before having to face the Reds yet again. The logical thing in people’s minds seems to be that City kick on and win everything. This is a problem of narrative that is pervasive in modern football but particularly around these two clubs.

Just listen to pundits talk about them. When City win, it’s because they’re brilliant. Their high line is tactical and flawlessly executed as they compress the space in front of it so well and suffocate teams with their cast of world-class talent. It is presumed that they will not drop points the rest of the way and that their schedule, despite including away trips to two sides in the top half of the table, will be easy for them.

Liverpool, on the other hand, faces a much more difficult road that includes rivals Everton and Manchester United with a visit from Tottenham mixed in. Their high line is a case of living dangerously. Their victories are a case of having brilliant attackers and finding a way to win as if it’s an accident or merely an achievement of their collective will rather than the overwhelming quality of the cast across the entire pitch.

Even when discussing the managers, this problematic narrative appears. Pep Guardiola is a genius, a football guru, and a master tactician. Jurgen Klopp is a fun, extremely likable chap who is a great motivator for his team. This narrative actually fails them both as Guardiola is in fact a likable and intelligent guy who is a great motivator and Klopp is a genius in his own right with a tactical style that serves as a near-perfect anecdote to Guardiola’s. But we all get sucked into believing these narratives are reality.

What Do You Believe?

The bigger issue with the narrative is not what it is, but rather, whether we believe it. And Sunday was one moment that has many a Liverpool supporter’s heads falling off, believing that we missed our only chance. Thankfully, the squad itself is not nearly as emotional and irrational as the people who sing the songs they dance to.

They will keep on playing and knowing what they must do. If they win every match, a feat they were going to have to do, either way, City will have to do the same. Looking at the form table coming into this weekend, it suggested that City dropping points is not at all unlikely, nor is Liverpool running off a stretch of seven more victories. It’s all still there to play for, and if you’re looking for narratives, I really don’t see a better one on offer that is more attractive than Steven Gerrard exorcising demons in his own way with his Villa side taking a point at the Etihad on the final day as Liverpool run past Wolves at Anfield to deliver a second title in three seasons.

If you want to invest in narratives, invest in the ones that make you laugh, smile, and jump and down with joy.

Yes, maybe it ends up as history repeating itself as the Reds beat Wolves at home just as they did on the final day in 2019, only to see City take three points and finish the league off. Maybe one or the other has a poor run of form and the final day is all a formality. You don’t know, and that’s why it’s interesting. It’s why you should get up tomorrow and find some joy in watching the whole thing play out in front of you.

What if We Don’t Win?

This is to say nothing of the fact that even if the Reds don’t win the league, they’re still on course for a cup treble at the time of writing. Are you going to be upset if they win 3 of 4 trophies on offer for them this season, including a seventh European Cup, but they don’t win the league? Or even a domestic cup double?

If you are, I suggest you find something else to do with your leisure time. Grow a mustache and make your own wax for it. Get into making craft bathtub gin and drink yourself into forgetting your misery maybe.

On the other hand, if you’re actually into this football thing and the journey Jurgen has cultivated for us, maybe stop crying about the possibility that the greatest Liverpool squad of our lifetimes won’t give you the unthinkable quadruple to celebrate.

Things are not defined in or by a moment. There is no set course to greatness, it’s a long and winding road and as Jurgen has told us before, it’s the journey that makes it all worthwhile.

Where we are on this journey, there is no time for negative, illogical nonsense. Liverpool is in the midst of the most testing portion of their season. If you’re not fully on board, strapped in, and ready to sing, shout, laugh, and celebrate this team and whatever joys they deliver next, I don’t know what you want from life and I definitely don’t know what you want from football.

It’s Liverpool’s most testing stretch of the season, but maybe the most important thing we discover is what it shows us about ourselves and the people next to us. 

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