I wrote last month about having little to no interest in the Qatari World Cup. Full disclosure: I got sucked in. The final took my breath away and from the 75th minute on it might be one of the greatest sporting stories ever told. I wanted Messi to win. However, I celebrated Mbappe’s second like it was a Liverpool goal. Pure, unadulterated theatre of a Final. Football won and neutrals won. We all could enjoy it for what it was without the emotional attachment of the Reds’ season form.
All of this left me feeling surprisingly flat going into the City game. The opportunity to see our boys in competitive action for the first time in six weeks ought to have stirred the soul. While I celebrated and enjoyed our two goals, I felt relatively ambivalent about going out of the competition despite all the joy it brought to us last season.
An Overpacked Season Suitcase
The football overload that elicited a crushing post-Paris comedown is soon to be further intensified with the introduction of the 32-team Club World Cup in 2025. In theory, more football should equal good. But aside from the conversation around whether it hampers the product, there is a very real possibility that as consumers the over-saturation can strip some of the joy that drives us as fans.
There is a very live risk of sounding spoiled or ungrateful in such scenarios. We just witnessed a season in which a quadruple was still possible at 5:20 pm BST on May 22nd. The possible best manager on the planet calls Anfield home. More often than not, we get to see our team win. All of this puts us in an extremely privileged position in the football landscape that we sometimes find ourselves guilty of taking for granted.
It is perpetually annoying to hear talk of this squad “underachieving” on the trophy front. From the position that the club was in when Brendan Rodgers was sacked, winning every major trophy possible is nothing short of miraculous. The fact that this golden era has come at the same time as the existence of Pep Guardiola and a transcendent Manchester City squad is the real source of frustration.
I’ll tell you what does help though; three points. We were far from perfect against Villa but there are sufficient signs to suggest that one or two tweaks might be enough to set Liverpool’s season on a path to great things between now and May. It was a real pleasure to see youngsters Ben Doak and Stefan Bajcetic get minutes to shine. Darwin Nunez looked like a constant menace and once he finds his shooting boots he might score about a million goals.
The Duality of Darwin
The narrative around Nunez is still extremely perplexing. You’ll either hear him already being dismissed as a flop by critics or told he will soon “come good” by those leaping to his defense. There appears to be very little mention of the fact he currently averages a goal every 139 minutes in the league and doing so at 23 with huge pressure and a huge price tag. Erling Haaland’s otherworldly start has overshadowed his season, yet that is unfair and shouldn’t be how every forward is measured.
As Boxing Days go, you’ll struggle to see a better one from a Liverpool perspective. Our neighbors conceded a last-minute goal at home to Wolves. Frank Lampard’s men are in a world of bother at the bottom of the table. A win at a tricky venue was followed up out of nowhere by a shocking notification.
Gakpo And The Season Ahead
That notification was the impending arrival of Netherlands standout Cody Gakpo from PSV in January. A lot of Manchester United supporters will be forced to delete a number of tweets on that front it would appear!
If there is one thing that can get the juices flowing again it is a big signing. Gakpo showed what he is capable of on the biggest stage and like Nunez is just 23 years old. It feels very much like the type of signing Liverpool is so good at getting right. The Dutchman leaves us with an embarrassment of riches up top. He also provides a crucial option during the recoveries of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz. I can’t wait to see how he gets on.
It has been a tough season at times but there is still plenty to be excited about. A top-four finish is still a possibility. There is the small matter of yet another reunion with Real Madrid in February. With Jurgen Klopp, we’ve seen that anything is possible. Savor these days because they might not be around forever.
UP THE REDS!