Poach it Like Jota, Bend it Like Trent
Before I get to our guys, I am just curious: did you ever seriously consider that any throw within, say, 40 yards of the goal line, is a dangerous set piece? I’ve been watching football for almost five decades, and I have to say, Forest’s attacking plan today was… unusual. Mostly in just how well it worked. Those throws embarrassed the Reds’ defense repeatedly, but the real X-factor for Steve Cooper’s side was the highly prescient reliance on unlucky deflections to score the visitors’ two goals. It was a brilliant plan, but unfortunately for them, they could not induce any of the Liverpool players to provide further assistance for a third. And so Forest merely got close, hitting the crossbar once and otherwise giving the Anfield crowd that warm feeling of dread it has come to love and expect.
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Joking aside, Forest played well, as teams in the relegation zone will do at this stage, providing for a chaotic end to a season. Just ask the Gunners, who barely escaped their tie with the Saints yesterday with a point. This is a feature of football that is unfamiliar to American fans, who generally expect that poor performance throughout a season will continue to the end, but when you add relegation to the mix, teams have the incentive to improve just enough to survive. It’s the ones safely mid-table that end up losing interest, more often than not.
For Liverpool, getting the three points from this one was as crucial as it was for Forest to try to get one, and it keeps hopes of a fourth-place finish and a possible champions league spot open. If the team can win its remaining games, it will likely make it, and the lads surely know that. The passion that we were used to seeing from this squad looks to be back, and they were hounding and harassing their opponents remorselessly, leading to absurd possession stats. Not that Forest minded, as they were set up to absorb such pressure.
Konate and Robbo played an excellent game, and deserve plaudits. Salah managed to tie Robbie Fowler for sixth in the all-time goals chart, in a lot fewer games. I bet he’ll get firmly into the fifth spot by the time the season is over. His winning goal was delivered emphatically and convincingly, being held back and down as he was. VAR was checking for offside, but they could just as easily have been checking for a penalty.
Diogo Jota is back, baby. Four goals in two games, and after his second, a world-class display against a – let’s not forget – world-class keeper, he had that sly grin of his back on his face. I suspect he’ll be racking up a few more before the season ends because when Jota gets in this kind of mood, he becomes impossibly tricky to handle. He tends to surprise you with the positions he takes, and when he is confident, his poaching abilities are second to none. But he isn’t my man-of-the-match, because he would have to have been literally flying over the pitch to take it away from one Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The man is playing like he is possessed. We’ve mentioned Darwin Nunez in the context of being a chaos agent, which he can be, but Trent today was the real article. You know how the best players – think De Bruyne, or Thiago at his best – seem to play sort of casually, yet somehow deliver magic with almost every touch? That was Trent today. His reading of the game was downright phenomenal, and his deliveries were nothing less than outrageous. He was playing in a different time zone.
If anyone had to score for Forest – who were class today, especially honoring the 97 – then I don’t mind Neco doing it. He had a brilliant game, and when you consider that he only left the Reds because he was Trent’s understudy as a right back, hopelessly unable to get minutes, one must wonder if we shouldn’t try to bring him back… and just let Trent roam the midfield, a new wild stallion, the face of Liverpool’s rejuvenated squad. He has always said his dream was to be captain of this team. In this role, in this way, he might very well get his wish once Hendo bows out. Certainly, if Forest does get relegated, Neco could be an excellent option at right back.
It’s going to be an exciting end to the season, innit? (look at me trying to be British)
In the meantime, enjoy a beautiful sunset from my hotel room in Maui, where I am writing this. It was well worth the 4 AM wake-up call.