I am one of those fans who, when my team loses, tries to block out the defeat completely. I try to pretend it never happened and just look forward to the next game.
I avoid any football highlights programmes that are likely to feature the game, I will not read any back pages in the newspapers for several days, and if anyone mentions the loss to me and tries to engage me in conversation, I say: “I don’t want to talk about it” and promptly change the subject.
Of course, many people reading this may feel that I am being silly and extreme, and I have lost count of the times someone has trotted out the well-used phrase “it’s only a game” in a scornful tone in response to my reluctance to acknowledge that the match in question was ever even played.
Why am I telling you this? Well yesterday morning, following the previous day’s draw with Wigan, I woke up with exactly the same attitude as described above. Accompanying it was that heart-sink feeling of dismay. However, and you may find this surprising, I see this as an encouraging turn of events.
Before the game on Saturday I was expecting Liverpool to take all three points, with Wigan being a side struggling near the bottom of the table, and so was bitterly disappointed that we only managed to draw. I now contrast this with how I would have felt if we had played this game at the beginning of January and got the same result.
The overwhelming emotion would have been relief that we hadn’t suffered another humiliating home defeat (a la Wolves and Blackpool) and had managed to salvage a point. Moreover, the result would have come as no surprise whatsoever.
However, Liverpool’s recent run of good form under Kenny Dalglish has raised hopes and expectations to levels not experienced in, arguably, years. In just a few short weeks, the football has improved immeasurably and the reward for this has been a drastic improvement in confidence and results on the pitch, and renewed optimism off it.
Therefore, the feeling of disappointment and frustration that I, and doubtless many other fans, felt at around 5.50 pm on Saturday is testament to how the team has been rapidly turned around.
Of course, the draw against Wigan was also a convenient reminder that Liverpool have a long way to go before they are back on course for being realistic contenders for the major trophies. Despite the much discussed ‘Dalglish effect’, as well as the less heralded, but also valuable, contribution from Steve Clarke, we need to remember that Rome was not built in a day, and the shortcomings of the squad were evident on Saturday.
Prior to kick off, I felt stirrings of anxiety when I learned that, due to injury, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger would not feature at all. Gerrard was missed for the reasons we all always miss him, but I think we also missed Agger’s ball-carrying skills and composure, which, for me is reminiscent of Alan Hansen in his playing days.
When Raul Meireles went off through injury it made the hole created by Gerrard’s absence even bigger, and left the side without a driving force going forward, a capacity in which Meireles is increasingly growing assured.
Furthermore, although Luis Suarez already looks like a quality player, with his deft movements and quick passing, and could have had at least one goal, with Andy Carroll not yet fit, the absence of a viable striking alternative was apparent for all to see. Milan Jovanovic looked slow and out of sorts, and it was obvious that David Ngog has only played bit parts recently.
In short, the lack of depth of the squad was exposed on Saturday. A new, natural left back should be top of Dalglish’s shopping list as an alternative to the often injured Fabio Aurelio, as well as a natural winger or two, preferably on the left. A creative midfielder would also be nice; fingers crossed we can acquire Charlie Adam from Blackpool in the summer.
For now though, I am going to try and be glad that I feel disappointment following the draw against Wigan. Better that than relief.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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