Liverpool: Rodgers' Team Selection Was Right. We Should Be Proud Of Our Performance
Yes, before we start, I am one of those that took to Twitter in outrage as soon as the team sheet became public. You can check it out, it’s all there. This isn’t what Liverpool do. This is surrender. Reeks of giving in. Sent out a team to lose because we’re going to lose anyway so there’s no point in trying (more than 140 characters that one). This isn’t what we do, this is what West Ham do, or Newcastle or Villa (all concrete examples, not having a go) this is NOT what Liverpool do. Yes, they’re Real Madrid but we’re f***ing LIVERPOOL.
Except that we’re not that Liverpool. Not at the moment. Not the way we’re playing. Still though, a 5-0 battering from the best team in the world against a B team just felt like it would be much more humiliating than a 5-0 battering against the first choice eleven, felt like not trying, like accepting defeat.
Thankfully I wasn’t the only one. Not by a very, very long way.
Scroll further down Twitter and you’ll see my public apology to Brendan Rodgers. Because I know he’s bothered about how I feel. I’m averaging an apology a season at the moment.
A one nil loss away in Europe shouldn’t feel like some kind of moral victory. Because it’s still a loss. Because of the ‘we’re f***ing LIVERPOOL’ thing. But this does.
It feels like some kind of moral victory because the changes worked, because we finally had the intensity that we’ve been missing all season, that we’ve been begging for all season. We may not have had the creative edge that we needed but is anybody going to tell me that the forward on the bench would have put in more of a shift than the lad that started? He wouldn’t. We know that, we’ve seen that.
It feels like this because we sat in front of the team that beat Barcelona 3-1, that went to Bayern last season and put 4 past them, that rarely scores less than 2 and has a habit of sticking 5 in the back of the net. We sat in front of the best team in the world and we stopped them from doing what they do and we didn’t do it in a Mourinho-esque ‘stick 6 men on this line here and see what happens’ way. We did it with movement and pressure and organisation. And the one moment that saw us undone? A sublime Marcello cross (he’s a hell of a player that Marcello, isn’t he?) to a lethal Benzema finish (he’s a hell of a….etc). The sort of quality that the best player in the world delivers.
Organisation. Brendan’s hinted that he didn’t rest players for this game. He’s hinted that he dropped players because they basically weren’t bloody good enough at Newcastle. I’m having that. As something I want our manager to do, ignoring reputation, ignoring history, handing out a blocking and dropping lads because they haven’t played well, I’m having that. He sent out a team that would follow his instructions. To. The. Letter. A team that would do the job that he wanted.
And he got the performance he wanted. Possibly not the result but the performance. The result? I’m convinced now that he was looking for the win, looking to counter, looking to absorb and hit them on the break.
Borini came in up front for that. Borini may not be good enough to do that for us but he moved. All night, he moved. Moved in exactly the way that Balotelli doesn’t. Pulled defenders around, ran. Not strolled. Ran. Tireless. A player we wanted rid of came in and ran like that for the team. Start him against Chelsea. Simple as that. If he can still stand then start him.
Can came in. Solid, burst from midfield, gave us forward thrust. Markovic, we’re still not seeing the trickery, the explosion. We’re seeing the settling in though. A bit more with each game. He carried the ball, he ran at Madrid. No fear, just ran.
Allen and Lallana did what Allen and Lallana do and did it well. Balance from the former, lovely little turns from the latter. Manquillo put himself ahead of Johnson (but then there are games where I put myself ahead of Johnson). Moreno was the left back that we knew that we’d signed, the only man on the pitch that could have caught up with Gareth Bale in order to bring him down. Taking one for the team? Yeah, I’ll have that as well.
But the ones? The ones that did it? Really did it, above all the other lads who did it?
Mignolet. The abuse that lad’s taken all season for his mistakes while his game saving stops are ignored. Tonight? Games saving stops all over the place. Not a foot wrong.
Lucas. Another player we were trying to get rid of, desperate to get rid of. Lucas was immense. Lucas was the Lucas that Lucas was before the Chelsea injury. The absolute bedrock of everything that we did. The man who made the team tick. Lucas Leiva went to the Bernabeu a forgotten man and, almost unnoticed, pulled off the sublime.
and of course;
Kolo. The Kolo that we worshipped at the start of last season. Building on his Swansea performance in place of the struggling Lovren (look, he’ll come good, okay?) Kolo brought back the madness, the full Kolo-ness of his being. He took one look at the world’s greatest player, a player looking to overhaul Raul’s Champions League goals record before his mate down the road does, and thought ‘yeah, I can have him.’ And he did. All night.
Make no mistake. Real Madrid are a great team. A great, great team. And they played like one last night. And we defended and held on.
And we showed that maybe, just maybe, that theory that we were espousing in August that we’d improved the squad, that we had options, were actually valid.
And I’ll have that for now.
Shouldn’t feel like a victory. Doesn’t feel like a victory. Feels good though. Apparently Brendan knows more about football than I do.