Swansea Drubbing Shows Liverpool Are Recovering
If you wanted to sum up Liverpool’s 2014 calendar year in one game then you’d probably be looking for some of the following:
Madness, creativity, controversy, frustration, defensive errors, attacking flair, squandered chances, self-inflicted wounds, beautiful football and some more madness.
Thus, Liverpool 4 - Swansea 1. Even in a relatively calm, considered, comfortable 4-1 victory, a 4-1 victory that could/should have seen us score at least two more we can still manage to be utterly terrifying in defence.
Adam Lallana’s just scored his first goal of the night. A comedy masterpiece. The joy of closing down the goalie, the very reason that you close down the goalie, the hurried ball played out against the attacker ballooning in a ‘once in a lifetime’ manner from the edge of the box to the back of the net. 2-0 up. Cruising. We can try the fun stuff, we can try the flicks and the feints and the cheating the ball down in one swift move to your own…hold on, who’s Henderson chested that down to? And suddenly there’s a wave of Swansea players breaking forward and your comfortable lead has lasted nearly a minute.
What follows is either an eternity or five minutes of Swansea pressure depending on which end of the ground you’re sitting. From the Liverpool end it’s a case of ‘here we go again, throwing away leads, be lucky if we get a point out of this’ and then we breathe and we slow it down and speed it up and go back to dominating and score two more.
The third is Lallana’s second and it’s a thing of beauty. All quick passing and finding space and the magic in the feet of Phillippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana taking a touch, another touch, a dummy, a touch more just to have the crowd screaming that he should have shot and then putting it in the back of the net. A Liverpool goal. A traditional Liverpool goal. A proper footballing goal scored by a proper footballer, a proper footballer who is properly settling in.
Because, you know all those lads? All those lads that we bought in the summer who were rubbish and were never going to settle in? The overpriced ones who we’d wasted all that Suarez money on? Yeah, they’re settling in and they’re beginning to look the part and most of them were on the pitch tonight.
Lallana’s the pick of the bunch obviously. A truly gorgeous footballer. A Beardsley. An old school number 7 playing in the number 20 shirt, a player who finds the space that Xabi Alonso used to find. A turn, a feint and you’ve no idea where he’s gone. He’s a Liverpool player that lad, there’s no higher praise.
But behind him? Manquillo and Moreno looking more assured as wing backs than they have as full backs, Moreno’s license to roam and permission to stay up there the key to his opening goal: a charge forward, a ball in, a peel into the box and wait for the inevitable cross as the extra man that nobody noticed.
Emre Can looking calm and assured. The forgotten man becoming key, playing with an arrogance and a confidence. Amazing what can happen when you work your international injury off isn’t it? A centre midfielder bringing order to our back three.
And it’s the back three that’s the key. It’s the 3-4-3 that becomes a 3-2-5 when attacking and a 5-2-3 when defending. It’s the mobility that we have with a series of false nines and technical, creative players up front now that we’ve realised that the Lambert experiment and the Mario experiment haven’t worked. It’s the enforced change that’s made us start to look like Liverpool again.
No, we’re not the Liverpool of January to March again. Not yet. But neither is anybody else. There’s nobody playing with that level of madness; Chelsea are a well-honed machine - lethal, destructive but a long way from being any fun to watch. We may never become that Liverpool again but then nobody else is going to either. What we can become is A Liverpool - a Liverpool that are fun to be part of, a Liverpool that create, that excite, that score goals, that win games again.
We’ve had to go a long way down in the last three months. We’re so far behind where we were a year ago, where we were in May, that it’s not even vaguely amusing but we’re three points off sixth place, five points off fourth and we’re only halfway through. There’s a long way to go, there’s Sturridge to come back, there’s Gerrard on the bench, please God there’s a new goalie on Brendan’s January shopping list because neither of ours are much cop. There’s work to do but the Liverpool we saw tonight just might be capable of doing that work.
2015. Top 4 and a cup. It’s not what we wanted but we’ll take that and build from there.