Though Liverpool’s record against the ‘so-called’ lesser opposition is steadily improving; it’s undeniably halted many promising seasons in the past (arguably this one too) – but, is this a mentality issue, rather than a lack of quality?
If so, could the ‘niggle in the back of their minds’ be something that’s deeply instilled before arriving at Liverpool? And something that hinders their adjustment to the rules of a ‘big’ club.
Look at the teams that have to deal with deep-sitting, defensive-minded, low-blocking teams; every other game – and brush them aside with ease – the Real Madrid’s, Barcelona’s, Bayern Munich’s, PSG’s, Juventus’s, and the Premier League’s consistent top-four for the last decade.
For them, beating these teams is second-nature, and having the experience in doing so, allows them to approach a game of that ilk, without thinking that there’ll be anything but 3-points at the final whistle.
These top, top players aren’t easily unnerved; most things aren’t nerve-racking once you’ve done it repeatedly – and that’s why the hoodoo is eradicated from their game – playing without fear/coping with pressure is the characteristic of a winner.
Can you remember the last time Liverpool bought a first-team player from a club of an equal status or bigger? I’ve checked, and it’s been a very long time to say the least. I’m not counting Mohamed Salah, because in my eyes, we’re a bigger club than Roma; though these are the realistic types I believe is needed to change our annual frustrations – and his 28-goal return backs that up.
There’s the odd exception of Sakho (PSG), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Sturridge (Chelsea), García (Barça) and Morientes (Real Madrid) but non of them were certified starters, or at the current time viewed as instrumental figures at their retrospective clubs.
Of course Fernando Torres was the figurehead of Atlético Madrid, but they finished 10th before his Anfield move.
Looking through our transfer history – I’d have to say that either Ian Rush’s return from Juventus or Kenny Dalglish’s arrival from Celtic is the last time (in my opinion) we bought the best, from one of the best.
I’m not suggesting we completely shun our identity of turning ‘water into wine’ because that’s prudent and has supplied us with some fantastic players’ over the years. Like Xabi Alonso or *whispers* Philippe Coutinho.
But perhaps we’re inheriting an underdog mentality; where the desire and commitment is at its highest during a game like Manchester City/Borussia Dortmund, but dips against the likes of Bournemouth/Swansea – not every time, but these slip-ups are very costly when fine-margins decide titles.
I don’t think you can only win trophies with Messi/Ronaldo in your team, but I think that our current team just needs a few game-changers, or a steely spine, that can drag you through a bad spell, or a lacklustre windy night in Stoke.
Every team has a dip in form, even the best in the world will inevitably have a drop-off, but it’s how you deal with it. Champions, with an impeccable mindset will carry on finding a way to victory throughout a tough spell – that’s the difference.
Buying from Hoffenheim, Southampton, Newcastle, Sunderland and Hull can still be an integral part of the squad – Van Dijk and Roberto Firmino the perfect example – but maybe bringing in some proven winners, from clubs bigger or equal to ourselves could finally end the long trophy drought.
The footballing version of a prime Mike Tyson’s beady eyes glaringly burning a hole in his opponents defence – he knew was knocking them out before he’d even threw a punch, and they did too.
Van Dijk 🇳🇱
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) February 8, 2018
He applied himself the same in those early days regardless of who stood in-front of him. We need that; undeterred motivation and willingness to win; whether it’s Man City or Macclesfield.
I do think Jürgen Klopp is building a new core to the team – and I wholeheartedly trust his judgment; all we need is consistency, and the success will come.
I don’t want us to just buy the league, but I’m at a point where I think Klopp needs readymade players, with instant impact.
Up the Reds!