An oft used cliché in sports is to chase perfection. That’s what all of the training and all of the gym work and all of the drills are supposed to do; to ensure that when you do end up at precisely that same angle or are confronted with the need to kick into an extra gear, the decision to turn it on is instinctive. That your reaction to any given situation on the pitch is exactly as you’d expected it.
I was struck by what this means for athletes and how that necessarily pales in comparison to what most of us deal with - how most of us can’t conceive of perfection in the way some of these athletes do. For example, I saw a tweet up a few weeks ago that showed a WNBA player doing shooting drills as a warm up. She hit every single shot in the 4 minute video. Nice and easy.
The commentary on the tweet that linked to the video perfectly captured that almost outer space-like existence of athletes. It essentially said that the thing that separates a professional basketball player from us is that the expectation is that at shoot around, they hit 100% of all shots. Us mere mortals would be happy hitting 50%.
A lot of this is, again, down to the training that athletes participate in. Put it differently, they have so many reps at doing these particular skills that they necessarily must be good at them. That perfection is actually attainable when you consider the way athletes work and train incessantly and then, on game days, seem to make it all work.
Winning, I think, is also a skill. One of the wonderful things is that we as Liverpool fans are watching something special: a perfect Jurgen Klopp side that’s finally amassed the perfect number of reps to truly unleash his vision of football. And it is indeed a sight to see.
Everything we witnessed during the weekend’s match against Burnley could work as a relatively great example of what it must be like to see Jurgen’s full, unfiltered footballing mind come to life. But I’m gonna choose to spotlight the play of a group that’s obviously emblematic of how Jurgen Klopp wants to play: our front three.
And I’m going to focus not necessarily on the goal scoring or on the (fun!) tension that exists among them as competitive teammates, but on what makes them tick. Namely, that their skills are all so complementary.
I’ve been on record here as saying that there is no obvious “leader” or most indispensable member of that front three. Because when you look at the pure goal scoring brilliance of Mohamed Salah, the seemingly can do-it-all flare of Sadio Mane, and the otherworldly contributions of the impossible to quantify Roberto Firmino, it’d be hard to pick just one of them. They are, in every way, a true unit. Watching them play and fluidly switch, find space, and suffocate teams from the front is an incredibly electric thing. To see it all in a group so evenly balanced is so unique. It is a gift.
Against Burnley, this group of three caused all kinds of terror on the opposition. Even when the other team resorted to hacking as a way of preventing attacks, it was clear who was in charge and whose influence was being imprinted onto the match.
The goals scored on the day - or, at least, the two scored by the members of the attacking line - are great symbols of what a Klopp team looks like on the attack: incisive passes, quick decisions, and players always in the right place. Either to take advantage of the correct decision in a given situation (a la Mané benefitting from Bobby picking him out with an inch-perfect pass on the break) or from simply being in the right place because that’s where you should be (a la Bobby slotting home a ball that ricocheted right into his path, in the middle of the 18, for his goal).
I especially love thinking about that second goal because Bobby, no surprise, started that break and released Mo with a beautiful pass. Bobby then just kept running. And even though he isn’t exactly known as a speedster, he hustled to catch up to where the action was happening and, of course, was rewarded for his efforts with that loose ball falling right to him.
Liverpool’s season is, at present, blemish free. It likely won’t stay that way - draws happen and even w/ all of the quality on hand in this, a squad that will likely go down as one of the best, top-to-bottom, it is impossible to guarantee that Liverpool won’t drop a match here or there.
But what is certain, at least in this early run of matches, is that this group of players are intent on executing precisely what they’ve worked on in training: the perfect execution of a Jurgen Klopp-driven team.