A new year – a new you, so the diet adverts scream. Telling us that we could be a better ‘self’, a more attractive ‘self’ and then they show clip of the handsome man and the beautiful woman that only exist in a land that none of us will never know. The reality of our lives is far more prosaic. No amount of dieting is going to turn me into a Brad Pitt lookalike. No amount of exercise will make me an Adonis. Nor will buying some expensive face cream get rid of my wrinkles, or crevices as my wife like to describe the lines where I laugh too much, especially when I look in the mirror.
So it is with football. A new year, a new side. January sales have started and so the forlorn dreams of fans begin once more. We want, we want, we want. The Liverpool side at the moment probably feels as though it could do with a festive makeover. Grumblings could be heard from all over the world when we drew with Sunderland on Monday. The fact was that less than 48 hours earlier we had reduced Man City to just a handful of shots on goal, won by a single goal and closed the gap on Chelsea once more.
Our disappointment is palpable. A side that only days earlier had been soundly beaten by Burnley and we only drew against the ‘most defensive side’ that Jürgen Klopp had faced.
Let us change one thing in 2017. Let us begin by thinking about where we are: we are second in the league; we play Man Utd and Chelsea this month; we have a cup semi-final; we have our most creative player coming back. I could go on, but I won’t. Yes, we have lost Sadio Mane to the African Cup of Nations. However, remember the gloom that set in when we lost Joel Matip with his ankle injury. Yet, the duo of Lovren and Klavan have been a great fit. They kept Aguero quiet and easily dealt with the difficulties of Peter Crouch.
Jürgen Klopp is, and this is an important word, building a side that is capable of anything. It might be possible that Klopp is happier at Liverpool than he ever was at Dortmund. And I never thought I would say that. When Rafa ruled, he tried to build a colossus of a club but was hindered by boardroom shenanigans and the takeover by two muppet Americans (two Yanks who made Donald Trump look like Einstein!). Having Michael Edwards as Director of Football, placing a man who Klopp trusts in charge of signings, transfers and player contracts, bodes well for the future of the club.
So, in my humble opinion, Liverpool is not a club that is in need of a detox, it doesn’t need a strict diet, nor does it need some expensive cosmetic surgery. The organic rebuilding of the club is bearing fruit already. I suspect that Klopp thinks he is about a year ahead of where he thought he would be.
None of what I said above means that we should be happy with all of this. It is a reality check, for those that moan about Monday’s draw.
So let us revisit that match for a moment. When was the last time that one side received two penalties in a match, in the Premier League? Maybe at the beginning of season when referees were told to stop the grabbing and holding at corners. There is the matter that we created chances but Mannone produced some great saves to deny us a goal. However, with only hours to recover, travel and then warm up ready for this game, we still produced a winning performance, even if the result didn’t match that expectation.
A New Year, A New Liverpool? Nope, not for me. Yes, we might have fallen further behind Chelsea, but how long can their winning run last for? It is not going to last until the end of the season. They are not that good a side, there are too many weaknesses, including their centre back partnership. Liverpool have the best run-in of all our rivals. For instance, Chelsea have to face the two Manchester sides in the final few matches.
So, as Ian Drury sang, “Reasons to be cheerful, part 3. 1,2,3.”
Footnote: I wrote this yesterday evening, without knowing the Tottenham vs Chelsea score. So, in light of this, there are more reasons to be cheerful!
Written by Colin Duffy