He’s probably right. If history serves, Liverpool are likely to get back to the old smooth-and-fluid in the next match against Arsenal. Sami Hyypia has been watching just as we have. And he also sees the bewildering pattern. Burnley’s no good. Tottenham’s just fine. Chelsea’s a snap. Leicester City’s a devastating force to be feared.
We also have priors as Liverpool bested Arsenal 4-3 earlier in the season. Now, I know that was back in the day but we’ve seen that mojo of ours as recently as the Tottenham game before the break, before La Manga ruined everything. But it’s still in there somewhere. Leicester City obviously frightened it and then it went back inside. That Gunnersaurus though, that might just be enough to coax it back out. Sami has his own theories.
“The so called smaller teams play a different way as an opponent to the bigger teams,” said Hyypia.
“The bigger teams trust their skill and their quality to go forward and they are not sitting back always, trying to hit on the counter. I think when a team is defending with nine men around their own box it’s very difficult to break.
It’s easy to assume that Arsenal will come to Anfield to play attacking football and will not be sitting back in order to hit Liverpool on the counter. It’s also easy to assume that I don’t like small spoons. But I do.
Life is full of surprises. In fact, Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool surprised the Premier League at the start of this season with a cohesiveness and strength that other teams were unprepared for. But something went south. A bunch of things, really. Injuries happened. Mamadou Sakho was not replaced. Daniel didn’t Sturridge. Goalkeepers. Sadio Mane leaving for AFCON. FIFA’s lording/unlording over Joël Matip. The list goes on but most clubs have to traverse a span or two of mucky ground throughout a season.
As Sami knows, it’s important for the players and staff to keep their heads up and work through the trouble as a team.
“It’s very important to stick together and trust the way you are playing,” said Sami.
“You have to help each other on the pitch even more. I’ve been in the situation where games are not going your way many times and people look to blame somebody else other than themselves. I think you have to look at yourself first and do your job properly and also help others around you.”
Hyypia may be right. Liverpool are likely to revert to super mode against Arsenal. And that would be ideal. Winning feels so good—can I get an ‘amen’—but if Liverpool don’t sort of how to take on the stubborn defenses of the league, the “smaller teams,” we can’t hope to ascend the table. Top four is the goal. Then big summer. Inspired pre-season. And, for the love of all we hold dear, some damn consistency.