I was there. I was at the scene of the crime. I was surrounded by the Spurs fans as they wailed for more and more goals against a willing opponent. The day, however, was all about two people: Susie and my brother. It was through their words and experiences that I can even try to frame my own. A week later I was in Liverpool with Daniel and Liz where Anfield was muted in silent desperation for a response to what appeared to be a routine thumping at Wembley. NK Maribor won't be the hardest test on Wednesday; moreover, not many important lessons can be taken from vanquishing such willing opponents that were thrashed 7-0 at their own ground merely weeks ago.
No, increasingly disillusioned and despondent reader; reality is beyond Wednesday's purported easy pickings in the land of milk and honey. Game against West Ham United, Southampton, Sevilla, Chelsea, and Stoke City will be underline whether this team is truly struggling or beginning to build real momentum heading into the last month of the year. It's only October. It's only November. It's only December. It's not a wasted season yet, but it could soon objectively look that way by the time 2017 steps aside for 2018.
Losing to Spurs hurt, but it was the gleeful goading and dismissive disrespect that charred the most. Wondering whether Liverpool would be beaten was one thing, but discussing whether the away side would concede four or five goals after only 20 minutes of football is entirely unacceptable. Jürgen Klopp hauled off Dejan Lovren after thirty-odd minutes only to undermine his own decision by starting him against Huddersfield, but the Football Gods in their wisdom decided otherwise. Whether a confidence, pride, or relationship muscle was strained is irrelevant as Lovren had no business starting on Saturday after what transpired at Wembley. Simon Mignolet, too, was fortunate to retain his place; however, what other options do Klopp and Liverpool have?
While these problems may have been crafted by prominent hands within the club, alternatives bring questions. Loris Karius is either Mignolet's successor or a failed attempt to find a goalkeeper that provides stability and consistency. As it stands, Karius is Liverpool's Champions League goalkeeper. Although I previously thought this was a good idea, Liverpool have not been and are not operating on the same level as Barcelona. As for Lovren's replacement, a decent game from Ragnar Klavan does not alter the fact that he is utterly inadequate for the challenge of being a regular starter. This is not to disparage the seasoned campaigner but to highlight the unfairness of nominating for a role where no lasting benefit can emerge.
Joe Gomez has been identified as the player step in, but Trent Alexander-Arnold is not ready to play regularly at right back. Rotation between Gomez and Alexander-Arnold with Gomez starting more games seems to be the best option in a Liverpool world without Nathaniel Clyne or any other senior right back. If Gomez moves to centre back, Liverpool would need a second option at right back to ensure that Alexander-Arnold's minutes are still managed. Emre Can, James Milner, or even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? Have fun. Gomez and Alexander-Arnold together in a back four also seems risky, perhaps even riskier than Lovren plus one of the pair in a four-man defence.
Susie and I sat as everyone celebrated. We were muted, shorn of our agency. If only we were at Anfield then we could be free to stand in celebration instead of exchanging clandestine glances of joy while secretly punching the air. However, I was warned by my youngest brother that suffering was inevitable with the way Liverpool tend to defend. It seemed a bit too smug coming from a Newcastle fan, but he wantonly spoke out of turn and above his station.
"It's too easy to score against Liverpool," he said, warning me to be prepared for misery at Wembley while I communicated my doubts with customary childish expressiveness. "Every team in the league has a good chance of scoring against you, and I think they should expect to score a goal the way you defend."
Huddersfield didn't come anywhere close to scoring on Saturday, but Anfield was quiet as the away fans mocked the lack of support from the home crowd. More wanton speaking out of turn. The first half provided no inspiration as a dour affair was punctuated by sterile possession and lack of creativity. The three of us watched on as moans and groans seeped out all around us.
"I haven't seen Anfield as quiet as it was today for a long time until we conceded the first goal – and I was quite often here in the last two years," Wagner said on the 3-0 defeat.
The fans perked up but will need to see some real progress to liven up in the weeks ahead. However, as Daniel (Nerf) aptly pointed out: we are fans not customers so should support the team accordingly.