By David Rice @davidjrice83
Do you feel better yet? Probably not.
The draw at Goodison seems to have brought us to a collective low point. I’ve blocked the word bottle, in any form, from my Twitter feed. But even with that, I couldn’t miss Chris Sutton’s accusation that we, the supporters of Liverpool, are the ones bottling it. And I couldn’t help but think that he might be right.
Undoubtedly, someone will say the most delusional thing that we can do is think that we can impact the team with our tweets and our arguments. But I think it’s a bit naïve to assume that a bunch of lads in their 20’s are completely deaf to social media.
Sure, they’ll know that the internet is a pit of negativity and hyperbole. But when it’s your mistakes, your every decision over a 90-minute span of your life that is the subject of all that ire, the belt that thousands (if not millions) of people are using to whip each other and the club with, it’s not outrageous to think that it would have an effect on you. That it just might make you tense up a bit.
Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear, I’m not here to tell you how to support Liverpool or argue with you. And if I’m being honest, I write this mostly for selfish reasons, because I need to recognise my own forming anxieties about this season and deal with them.
By now, if you’ve read anything I’ve written this season, you’ve likely noticed that I tend to land on that glass half full side of the aisle. And yet, on Sunday I flew off the handle and had a go at some of the folks across this polarised divide that says you either see doom or you see only sunshine hanging over the Reds.
Doing so didn’t make me feel any better. I mostly just felt like a bit of a tit and it has me asking myself why we’re doing this to ourselves? Why are we taking the piss out of one another during a season this incredible? Maybe it’s easier to understand when it’s clearly shit, but it certainly isn’t more enjoyable hoping for fourth.
Liverpool will have to be better than they were at Goodison or Old Trafford in recent weeks if they want to hold the Premier League trophy come May, this is true. But I’m not sure how tearing each other to shreds over differing viewpoints of the clear progress made or having a go at the players is helping anyone achieve anything.
Now, the worst has happened. Liverpool have blown the lead that we all hoped would carry us to that elusive Premier League title. Our hopes are no longer solely in this team’s hands. Setting the pace is exhausting. Surely, we can all agree on that. City now have that to deal with that expectation on top of the Champions League and FA Cup. If they do it and pip us to the league title, so be it.
From our perspective, however, it’s all a bit simpler now. This team just has to do what it was built to do; chase the champions. That’s what they set out to do at the start of the season and perhaps, that’s where they’re at their best. If we’re honest, it’s probably where we’re at our best too. It’s where our expectations are most reasonable, any perceived sense of destiny most in check.
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City are a team that were crowned champions by most of the media before a ball was kicked in August. It’s a team that finished 25 points ahead of us last season and that has been built by shady means and dirty money. Of course we’re chasing them. Aren’t they supposed to win it? The fact that we have effectively closed that gap with just a few signings is a testament to Jurgen Klopp, the team, the staff and the progress toward the end goal of bringing glory back to Anfield.
The talking point that you’d have taken this at the beginning of the season is becoming worn out. But you would have, you know? In most seasons, point totals in the 90’s aren’t just enough to win you a title, it’s a pipe dream. We all would have taken this, because turn the clock back to August and we all believed that chasing them was exactly what we needed to do. We shouldn’t be that upset or surprised that it still is what we need to do.
I’m not suggesting you be satisfied with second or happily accept things if we don’t win it. Nor am I suggesting that you blindly believe and not see the cracks in our credentials, thus setting yourself up for a heartbreaking experience if our stars don’t align. But I do ask you to recognise that it borderlines on insane that a segment of us would seemingly be more comfortable fighting for top four relevance. That we aren’t collectively viewing this season as a success comes down to us consistently moving the goal post of what success is based on a moment.
I have a friend of many years who told me at the beginning of the season that he thought we needed 96 points to best City, and if we get that we will 100% win the league. That was a position he held as recently as a few weeks ago. After Sunday’s result, he no longer felt that way, and at a time when Liverpool could potentially still put 97 points on the board. What changed?
The truth is, not much. We’re still one of the best sides in the world, still in the mix and capable of beating anyone on our day. We just aren’t in the driver’s seat anymore.
Context doesn’t change with the latest result, it’s a reflection of a bigger picture. Perspective, however, does shift with the wind and after a result like Sunday, finding and listening to hot takes and angry perspectives is much easier than clinging to the broader context.
All things become clear in time. Maybe we should just let it play out, take a few deep breathes and think about the content of what we say before putting it out into the world, whether you’re sat two rows into the Main Stand or digging into a social media comment thread. At least until this ride is over. We won’t, but maybe we should.
We should all grant ourselves a bit of freedom to enjoy the fruits of this team’s labor, which has seen Liverpool take 70 points from 29 matches, a point total just five short of what they amassed over the entirety of last season. To find a way to enjoy the fact that we’ve significantly closed the gap on a team considered by some to be the best ever to take a Premier League pitch.
Liverpool may go on to fail this spring. It’s possible, but not inevitable as some would suggest. Those folks may well be preparing themselves for that, but there’s no need. There are nine games left and a world of possibility ahead. I, for one, am going into it head held high and hoping to see us do something akin to what Man City did in 2011/12 when they won their first title of the Premier League era. They, by the way, trailed Sir Alex Ferguson’s United by one point after 29 matches. Turned out, no one had bottled anything.
But no matter what happens, the cloud currently hanging over our heads needs to lift and we’re the only ones that can raise it.
The media isn’t going to help by suddenly observing some context. Another 5-0 from the team likely isn’t enough to universally appease. More perspectives don’t seem to be doing the trick either.
A brief glance down the roster and at the staff with an eye toward that broader context, however, should remind you of a comforting truth. That we are locked in to a journey that will last years, not just the next two months. With that in mind, what do you say we let the bitterness and anger go and free ourselves to spend the next nine matches taking in whatever happens like it’s the road to Kiev all over again?
By David Rice @davidjrice83