Liverpool opened their second Champions League campaign in eight years in the most Liverpool way imaginable; falling to a home draw through a conspiracy of headless defending and wasteful finishing after dominating possession and chance creation. It’d be depressing if it weren’t so predictable, but after having seen this exact narrative play out this often, the whole ordeal is mostly just a little numbing.
Equally predictably, players have been encouraging fans to remain positive, choosing — publicly, at least — to focus on the positives from the match, namely the dominant performance and everything that wasn’t a whiffed clearance or missed opportunity. It is a well-worn strategy, and not one that should cause offense, assuming everyone involved is being significantly more self-critical as soon as the cameras turn away.
Focusing on what went wrong is futile unless one can pinpoint how to remedy those errors, and Sadio Mané — who is looking at a two-week vacation as he sits out a three-match suspension following his sending off at the Etihad — knows just the way to make amends.
“We have to be positive – it’s the first game,” the former Southampton man told ITV. “We have everything to qualify. We’ll prepare for the next game and why not win all [of the rest]? We have a great team and great quality in the team.”
Just win ‘em all. It’s solid logic from Mané, and while more cynical supporters might venture to argue that this was in fact not the first game — it was Jürgen Klopp’s 106th in charge of the Reds, and the team’s weaknesses are glaringly similar to how they looked a year ago — and that, while winning the remaining matches would indeed make the first one moot, actually figuring out a way to achieve that feat might require a change in strategy, it is tempting to put ones trust in the club’s best player.
It’s the doubters and believers thing again, isn’t it. Well, if Klopp would like his converts to remain in the latter camp, rectifying recurring problems that lose the team points and matches would be a good start.