On Friday last there were bullish predictions, from some immoderate Liverpool fans, of taking that ugly Premier League trophy to Anfield for the first time. By Saturday evening many of those same fans were on the verge of self-immolation; tormented, crushed by self-loathing and in a frenzy of despair about the club's chances of finishing anywhere near the top four. The presence of so many intemperate souls amongst the supporter base means that we have become perceived by others as a cliché; the delusional fans who lurch from the unshakable belief that this is going to be our year to the desolate certainty that we are miles away from a title challenge.
Setting a new record for the gloomy descent from ebullient hope to self-flagellating despair, many Reds fans morphed from feisty positivity-monkeys to emo doom-mongers within the space of ninety Emirates Stadium minutes. It was a fascinating study in the essentially unhinged reality of the football fan. However, it is surely a poor enough life-choice to place one's emotional stability and mental health in the hands of a bunch of footballers, without further exacerbating the problem by allowing one's tenuous equilibrium to be utterly compromised by a solitary defeat to the league leaders on their own pitch.
As Saturday night wore on, your scribbler withdrew from the cycle of despondent analysis that clogs up Twitter in the wake of a defeat. Some folk, intelligent enough to know better and some, whose opinions are held in inexplicably high esteem, elbowed each other out of the way as they jostled for position, desperate to win the race to vilify players and manager. For such blinkered benighted souls, the vindcation of one crowing I told you so seems to be a life-affirming elixir.
Message boards and comment threads hummed with righteous indignation and blogs were composed with poisoned fingertips, as these doyens of the virtual world of football enlightened us all as to what exactly had gone horribly wrong and who was to blame. And we all love a bit of blame, don't we? A cursory glance around the offerings of this rabid commentariat was revealing. Lucas Leiva is a pointless presence, Steven Gerrard is only fit for the knacker's yard, Aly Cissokho is not a Liverpool player and Jon Flanagan, well, let's not even recount the utter garbage spouted about the young lad before he even kicked a ball, let alone the one-eyed criticism of his actual performance.
Of course many of these wretched miserabilists are, at least, consistent. Their mournful mumblings and spiteful summations are ever-present and can be ignored because of their predictability. Such sepulchral naysayers are not the problem, merely an annoyance, which can be evaded. The real issue lies with those who seem frighteningly incapable of forming their own opinions, whether extreme or balanced. I speak of those who are often the loudest of all, those who vacillate disconcertingly between fervent certitude of success and tenebrific predictions of bland mediocrity.
What a shockingly dramatic existence such people must lead. It must be exhausting for such types to deal even with mundanity. Imagine how they cope with the minor ups and downs of an average day. A throwaway motivational compliment from the boss? I really believe I can kick-on from here and become the President of the World! No cereal in the cupboard? Civilisation as we know it is destined to crumble! A faulty boiler? Save yourselves, we're all gonna die!
If we are to derive any pleasure from our support of Liverpool Football Club in its current incarnation, we must allow that disappointments will befall all teams, but especially those who are endeavouring to build a sustainable challenge to the established hierarchy. For every imperious victory over West Bromwich Albion, there will be a chastening defeat by a team like Arsenal, that plays the kind of football we aspire to. This is natural and it is part of any learning process.
The example of our opinion-dividing Brazilian midfielder is instructive here. Lucas Leiva has looked like a composed general one week and a hopelessly out-manoeuvred pretender the next. This, of course, may not be solely down to Lucas Leiva. The level of the opposition, the manager's instructions, the team shape, the comparative industry and positional intelligence of his central-midfield partners -- all of these can determine how much impact he may have on a given afternoon.
This is not intended as an attempt to explain the fact that Leiva is yet to return to his best, but rather to highlight the fact that he is neither the best player ever or unfit for the jersey, as one insightful keyboard warrior put it. The point, dear reader, is that level-headedness is vital if we are to navigate this season and evaluate what we see before us with anything resembling sang froid.
Please do not misread the tone of this piece as preachy. During a match and in its immediate aftermath, I will rail and bellow with the worst of them. Many shattered remote controls can attest to that. I set myself up as no bastion of rationality. Yet before I commit my thoughts to words, I try to understand the various forces that led to the disappointment or elation I am feeling. This is not an attempt to appear morally superior but a purely self-interested exercise in preserving my sanity. This may be an emotionally fraught season, folks. Hold on to your hats and look out for one another. The crazies are out there.