The new season has well and truly begun, as Liverpool took the lead over Bournemouth on Saturday in their first home match. The match wasn’t without its bumps - conceding early on, Alisson’s one day of bad decision making a season, Alexis Mac Allister receiving a dubious red card - but it felt like the mentality monsters of old had finally returned with this new and re-energized squad. There were quite a few Anfield debuts on the squad, including this week’s new and unexpected signing Wataru Endo, and the whole performance made for a mostly enjoyable day at the park.
Now join us as we examine some of the narratives, tactics, reactions, and questions Liverpool will be dealing with and the fans will be talking about in the aftermath.
Dissecting the Narrative
Once again we are faced with the question of “Do the referees have it out for Liverpool?” After last weekend’s debacle by Anthony Taylor, Thomas Bramall started as a welcome respite. Antoine Semenyo was only allowed fifteen minutes of fouling before seeing yellow, both goalkeepers were carded for time wasting, so Bramall was mostly fair in the first half of the match. It wouldn’t be until the shocking straight red card shown to Alexis Mac Allister for a soft and unintentional tackle that things would take a turn.
What’s that? Oh Paul Tierney was on VAR duty? Funny, doesn’t he have a recorded problem with Jürgen Klopp? And Bramall wasn’t even told to reconsider the tackle himself? Strange. It’s almost like a lot of these referees had watched Liverpool in their prime, and are now in a position to take it out on another Liverpool team on an upswing. It’s an old and tired trope, the “everyone is out to get us” idea because no one likes to see working class clubs succeed (although Liverpool as a club are far from working class anymore), and yet the evidence just keeps sprouting.
The Reds were actually well placed to compose themselves after going down to ten men in their second match of the season, and Liverpool are already planning to appeal the decision.
How The Players/Manager Reacted
As mentioned above, the biggest changing factor in the match is the loss of Mac Allister. He had been doing well in the deeper midfield role to allow Dominik Szoboszlai and Cody Gakpo to thrive going forward, and losing him meant changing to a whole new system that Klopp said they had never played before.
Diogo Jota: “We were joking on the bench it was almost like we were playing better with 10 than with 11! I think everyone really felt the moment to stand out, to be able to help each other, to stay closer to each other. And I think that’s what we did. We got these three points and I think it’s deserved.”
Jürgen Klopp: “Yes, I saw it back. I think the amount of times I got asked about it [by the media] shows already it is worth discussing it again, which we will probably do. I saw it back now, in the game I couldn’t… I asked Macca and he said, ‘I touched him but not really.’ That was all he told me. After the game I saw it back now and I think if you have a list of points of what you need to give a red card, I think the majority - besides contact - nothing else, no other boxes ticked in that moment. I think it is a decision we all agree if he gives a yellow card the VAR would not overturn it. He gave a red card and the VAR is not overturning it because the contact means there is no clear and obvious [error]. Mistake, but I think the punishment [of] 40 minutes with 10 men in that weather today is already punishment enough, but let’s see. I don’t know. We have to talk to the authorities.”
Andoni Iraola: “I don’t know. In real life it did not look like a red card.”
What Happens Next
Next week’s match sees the Reds travel to Newcastle as work on the Anfield Road end continues. While Liverpool are planning to appeal the red card issued to Mac Allister today, he will likely miss out on this trip regardless. If the appeal is successful then it’ll be the only match he’ll likely miss. Luis Diaz and Trent Alexander-Arnold both came off with knocks, so their fitness will be in question to face the Magpies. This week will also be more time for Wataru Endo to get acquainted with the squad, although his performance against Bournemouth looked promising after only one day of training.
The summer transfer window is also coming to a close within the fortnight, with Friday September 1 as the last day for clubs to sign and sell or loan players. There are still a couple positions that Liverpool could use some help with, and there may still be some movement from them yet in this last week and change.