It’s not unusual or unreasonable to blame players, tactics, or decisions for dropped points. I’ve seen people pointing fingers at Trent, the keeper, the finishing, the midfield, and the center backs. All of that is reasonable as each of those could have been better. While they deserve patience and reverence given what they’ve provided us in recent years, it’s okay to be honest when they simply aren’t good enough.
I’ve also seen people blaming the pitch, the officiating, the kickoff time, and even Pep Ljinders books signings last week in the buildup to this match.
At some point, you have to come to grips with some important realities. The first is that it’s the first match of the new Premier League season against a newly promoted side away from home. It’s a recipe for a wild card result. Fulham has been on its own journey since being relegated two seasons ago and it’s one that has involved a lot of winning and scoring goals. Saturday’s opening salvo with a visit from one of the top sides in the world was always going to be an emotionally charged affair for them as they look to start strong and avoid being relegated once again.
Second, you have to recognize that two sides contest the game, not just the men in red. As supporters, we tend to act as if there are no earthly reasons why Liverpool should ever drop a single point. Sometimes, it comes down to nothing more than your opponents deserve something from the match on the day.
Why Blame the LFC Without Crediting Fulham?
In some ways, it’s not hard to see why people forget this, because as of late, the Reds haven’t dropped many points when it’s decided by things they can control. So yes, Saturday’s result is discouraging, but not as damning as some will undoubtedly expect you to believe.
In a season that is going to be hectic in how fast the games come, disjointed in how it unfolds due to the winter placement of the World Cup, and unpredictable on the table as City will likely once again struggle to do it a third a year in a row. Adding it all up, the turnover at the biggest clubs in the country, evolving styles and demands on players’ bodies over the chaotic season, and what you see is this is a campaign begging for the unusual.
It’s rare to see a season so neatly set up for the potential of a Leicester City-like unforeseen champion. For clubs who have fewer players going to the World Cup, there are two keys to making a run at it. Getting off on the right foot and maintaining rhythm post World Cup break. If let’s say, West Ham can do just that, they’ll have to feel like a run at the top spot is as realistic as it will ever be.
For clubs like City, the majority of their lineup will be in Qatar and then back playing full time just as soon as it’s over. The demands on the body, the disorienting nature of the campaign, and the struggle to do it all once more will prove a worthy obstacle to overcome.
Chasing the Title with the World Cup on the Horizon
I’ve started each of the last three seasons talking about how this chasing 100 nonsense City and Liverpool have been doing for the last 5 years can’t go on forever. At some point, each will come back down to earth in the same season, and we’ll have a league winner on 84 points, just as it once was.
In truth, the league overall has been poor in recent years. Liverpool and City have run the show, with everyone else proving to be just average or below. It has not been a true competition for some time now. This year, that just may change.
As for the Reds, they’ll have a handful of players departing for the World Cup. The likes of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez, Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson will be on World Cup duty. Much of the rest of the squad, however, will get a nice break, some rest, and a chance to train together. How Liverpool goes into that period and manages the transition out of it will decide if they’re able to take advantage of the opportunity to be crowned kings of this bizarre campaign.
What to take from Week 1?
If you’re looking for defining moments, it’s rare to find them across 38 games. But in a season as strange as this one is about to be, it’s definitely not going to be found in week 1. At the time of writing, City is about to walk out against West Ham, a team that stretched them to their limits at times last season. It won’t surprise me a bit if they do it again and if they aren’t the last team to test a City side that, on paper, should win the league quite easily.
But titles aren’t won on paper are they?
This is no ordinary season. We should take no point for granted, even when it’s as disappointing as the one the Reds managed to claw back at Craven Cottage.