Fear and groaning: Life at the Top for Liverpool
On 1st December, 2008, boos and jeers greeted Liverpool following a 0-0 draw with West Ham at Anfield. A chilly and frustrating night saw Liverpool held by yet another determined, average team to come to Merseyside and defend like A.C Milan circa 1990.
Despite the draw, we still topped the league in December and were in good shape under Rafa Benitez, despite the corrosive influence of Gillet and Hicks. It wasn’t enough for some though.
The boos and jeers perplexed many fans that year. We where top of the table and had our best starting XI since 1990 but this wasn’t enough to keep up spirits at Anfield. We just couldn’t enjoy doing well.
There was a nervousness in the air around L4 that year. Often, the crowd was quiet, tense and at times overbearing. The silence and concern ebbed down from the terraces and affected the players on the pitch.
We missed out on the title that year by a horrible narrow margin. Mentality and dealing with the expectations of a title race are huge factors for players getting through a campaign and coming out the other side with a trophy. So too is that extra 10 percent that the crowd can give a team when they’re roaring their side on. Almost ten years on from those December boo boys, the same pressure and demands are on the shoulders of Klopp’s men. We will need the fans this season, more than we’ve needed them for years. Anfield must be a cauldron of noise, in the way that only a few grounds in the world can be.
Job done but not enough
Fulham came to Anfield on Sunday, with much salivation and excitement about how many Liverpool would score against the most porous defence in the league.
In the end, despite many predicting a huge win, Fulham conceded just twice. Liverpool dominated the game from pretty much start to finish, barring a couple of nervous moments in the first half.
All in all it was a competent and controlled performance which took us back to the top of the table, albeit for a few hours. Yes some of the build up was slow, and we must move the ball faster from the second third of the pitch, but ultimately we got the win. It didn’t really matter if we failed to score four or five.
The hushed atmosphere at the ground though, revealed a lot about the current mind of some in the fan base. Even at 2-0 and exerting full control, the fans were nervous and restless. Some of the comments on social media afterwards suggested a full on melt down had occurred, rather than a routine win.
To be fair it was a Sunday midday game, prime time for hangovers, but you’d still hope to hear more from the supporters to lift the team, given how well Klopp has done with our beloved Reds in three years.
Managing expectations will be huge for Klopp and the players this season. The pressure on the players is growing by the day.
Sunday’s eerily quiet crowd is a symptom of this pressure and expectation. The fans can feel the importance of each game whether it’s Huddersfield away or City at home. The expectation is on Liverpool to just not just win, but win with pizzazz. However you cannot help but feel the bar is too high.
2017-18 will live long in the memory. The beatings doled out on City, Roma and Porto were some of the finest exhibitions of Klopp’s high press. Even the neutrals stood wide eyed as three or four goals a game became par for the course. Eighty-four goals were scored in the league and Liverpool were one of the most entertaining sides in Europe.
The play was rapid, dizzying and relentless. But it was also hard to keep up. With long term injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana to contend with, Klopp has lost two of his foot soldiers in the engine room of his press.
Compounded with Emre Can sulking off to a smaller club and Coutinho back spasming all the way to Catalonia, you can start to see that we are operating without three or four pieces of the puzzle. Fans are going to have to accept that not every game can be a four or five goal romp for now, especially when you play by the FFP rules.
These are truly the better days we yearned for; when a grinning, sharply dressed German stormed into Anfield in 2015.
Liverpool are at the top of the football tree once again and we should all take a moment to just enjoy it. We all love to see three, four and five goals scored, and some of the performances have been a tad flat of late. However, you cannot deny they progress and strides being made. Just five league goals conceded, thirty points from twelve games and a manager we can all rally behind.
There will to be some massive moments this season for the club, when they will need the fans to give them that the boost as the pressure rises. Let’s hope the silent expectation and impatient grumbling are absent as the Reds march on under Klopp.