Right, Chelsea lost at Crystal Palace this afternoon and Arsenal host Manchester City shortly, meaning that Liverpool can't really avoid any sort of title talk at this point. They very well could be top of the Premier League to start the month of April. Seventh last season, on the brink of administration and in the relegation zone four years ago, they're now well and truly in contention.
That's utterly terrifying, and if the last twenty-odd minutes against Sunderland are any indication, that's not a reality that we're collectively ready to accept. Anxiety reigned supreme as Gus Poyet's side sought an equalizer in the dying minutes at Anfield on Wednesday--players, staff, and supporters alike were unnerved, both by the narrow margins that settled the match and the fact that Liverpool were in the unfamiliar position recently of actually being successfully.
None of this is lost on the manager, who made efforts to calm nerves ahead of Tottenham's visit tomorrow evening:
"My message to the fans is to enjoy it. We need the fans to stay calm. I know when you want something so much that's easier said than done. They haven't been in this position for a while. I can understand that sometimes there is that wee bit of trepidation and fear. The atmosphere at Anfield can be a real cauldron and now we really need our army of supporters to really get behind us. If a player makes a mistake then encourage him. That's so important because if they get that encouragement then they will get on the ball again. Amazing support at home is something we've had all season. Let's make sure in these last remaining games it continues along that way. Don't be frightened to really enjoy it because as players and staff we will."
Nice sentiment and all, but being calm is not exactly something that we've done other than when it's been accompanied by the acceptance of the soul-crushing disappointment that comes along with it. This is a different type of calm, one that comes with the certainty that things are being doing the right way, and that any setbacks are temporary ones rather than they type that could negatively alter the trajectory of the club for years to come.
So yes, let's be calm and all, but in the meantime definitely don't stop panicking.
Brendan Rodgers will be cutting a confident figure regardless, and an interview in the Guardian (HT to Marque-Pierre) sheds light on how that confidence has developed over the course of a tumultuous early managerial career. The whole thing is worth a read, but the quotes below are particularly interesting:
"How you succeed is how you deal with failure. Whatever way you dress it up something hasn't worked. For the first time in my life I felt I had failed at Reading. I probably read the script wrong, thinking I had three years and instead I had 20 games. I could either disappear and become an academy director, where I'd been for 14 years, or show character and perseverance and go again. Thankfully I was able to do that. I certainly have not had it presented to me. I found out the hard way. I respect former players who get the opportunity but I had to go down a different trail. I suppose that fear of failure is what drives me on."
Long may that drive continue.