I think it’s time to concede the title.
In Boxing terms, Saturday was that punch around three or four blows beyond the required stoppage, when the referee finally steps in, arms waving to call a halt to proceedings, when the beating was too ferocious to initially put himself in the middle of it.
I gave up drinking during the early hours of New Years Day. Liverpool FC haven’t won a league game since I last had a beer.
That’s been a long month or so.
On the plus side, my sinuses feel a whole lot better than they once did, and I don’t wake up feeling like I’ve been trampled on by an elephant.
On the downside, I’ve lost the that fall-back comfort of drinking to forget.
The wheels have come off big time, but this latest setback once again pointed to the deficiencies that are our lack of both a goalkeeper of substance, and a belligerent and roundly hated striker.
The scorer of, rather than the manner of Hull City’s second goal was the cause for the greater embarrassment. The first goal was simply unforgivable. 2017 is proving pretty unforgiving. Where does this season go from here exactly?
Well, it goes back to Anfield on Saturday for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur.
It’s not as simple as saying the players aren’t good enough. In fact, it’s lazy to suggest that. Many of our players are good enough, but something isn’t right when it comes to the concept of us going that extra few steps to win our first league title since 1990.
There is an entrenched mentality within the club that we can’t win it. You need to be belligerent, you need to be forceful, you need to insist upon it, you can’t blink when you’re punched, you have to punch back harder. We feel sorry for ourselves and cringe when we are punched. We haven’t been brave enough to win the title since 1990. It takes more than skill and ability to win the title, it takes bravery, it takes nerve, and it takes stubbornness. That’s what we lack. We lack bravery, we lack nerve, we lack stubbornness. It has nothing to do with the individual talent of the players.
Under Brendan Rodgers in 2013-14, we came as close to glory as we did because everyone temporarily suspended their entrenched beliefs and disbeliefs. We believed that we could do it. The skills, the capabilities, the possibilities of the players largely looked after themselves. We absorbed a great deal of pain when we fell short of the title.
Jürgen Klopp has been a positive effect on this football club, and he will continue to be so. He made mention of his fears of a club deflated after this loss on Humberside. We’ve suffered a lot of deflation since May 2014.
A lost title, the sale of Luis Suarez, the end of the Steven Gerrard era, the unedifying spectre of the modern game with Raheem Sterling’s engineered exit from the club, a penalty shoot-out loss in one cup final, and a second half capitulation in another when leading at half time.
Other, more eloquent writers than me have said it before, but we can deal with disappointment, it’s the hope that kills us.
This can be different however. We don’t have to unpick the good work we have achieved since Klopp walked into Anfield around 16 months ago. We have to learn to dust ourselves down and punch back in triplicate. We will continue to be walked over, if we let it happen. Time to grow up as a squad, time to grow up as a set of supporters.
We’ve suffered setback upon setback since the start of the year. We’ve invited much of it on.
We have capable full backs. We’re always better off with a competent makeshift left back, than we are with an erratic career left back. Our centre backs are individually sound. Put a traditional Liverpool goalkeeper behind them and they’d prosper. How many midfielders and number 10 types do we need? We are inundated with them. Put a force-of-nature goal-getter at the point of this team and it would be primed for greatness.
It then comes back to the question of mentality. Marrying what we can do to what we will do has been our habitual problem since 1990. It’s not that we couldn’t win the title since 1990, it’s that we wouldn’t. Two entirely differing concepts.
So we don’t need to go back to the drawing board, we don’t need to rip it up and start again. We need two on-pitch elements addressing urgently, and we need to rediscover our self-belief. We are better than current results dictate, and this is not the end of the world as we know it.
Testing times require a strong will and a clear head.