Look, dropping points against newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion was a wake up call: yet again the Reds watched rivals drop points and failed to capitalize with further numerical advantage, all while Manchester City (who saw their 28 December match postponed due to COVID concerns) got maximum points in the matches they played in this period.
In 2013/14 the mood was different. We never expected to be in for a title, and, after realizing it late, lost it late on. The 2008/09 season certainly didn’t come from nowhere, but the background noise around Hicks & Gillet’s ownership of the club feels a mile off where we are now (and we certainly weren’t defending champions). In 2018/19, we realized the promise early, but needed to expect perfection in every match.
The Reds have looked both unplayable and deeply terrible already this season, with their points total allowing them to top the table into the New Year. Elements of 2019/20 remain: Bobby Firmino scoring late against Tottenham doesn’t happen for a side without the “winning late” mentality; though Crystal Palace turned into a rout, the opening goal was from a confident Taki Minamino, showing just how deep the (injury-laden) squad is at present.
At the same time, though, showings against Aston Villa and Fulham (and in the second half, specifically, against West Brom) show a weakness that is at once understandable (they’re playing a lot) and also scary (if we cannot win against newly promoted teams, our job is a lot harder).
But this season is a strange one, and we as fans should keep that in mind. I have no way to position my feelings after a poor performance. On Saturday night I was convinced we were winning the league, and on Sunday I was in the house not wanting to chat football with anyone.
What we should all (and I include myself in this) remember is that this season is unprecedented. Players are being asked to perform in conditions (physical and mental) that are at kindest unusual, and at harshest cruel. We cannot expect the best (even if we can criticize bad performances) but at the same time we should expect the best possible; it’s hard to know what to expect and how to judge performances.
Judge them at the end, and don’t lose sight of the journey along the way. We’ve seen things they’ve never seen.