As the final whistle blew at the Champions League Final in Madrid, Liverpool supporters were too busy celebrating (and/or bawling their eyes out from pure, unadulterated joy) to notice the general sentiment by neutral fans. That sentiment? Fuck, that was one boring ass final.
Manager Jurgen Klopp was asked about this very thing in the post match presser. As if speaking for the entire fan base, he pointed out that his sides had played in—and lost—many far more exciting finals. This includes the very exciting 2018 Champions League final in Kiev, which saw two of our players injured en route to a 3-1 defeat.
Adventure? Excitement? A Jedi craves not these things. Neither should title-winning sides.
If there is a clear distinction to be drawn between the victorious and boring 2018/19 Champions League campaign, and the extremely exciting also-ran 2017/18 campaign, so too can we draw nearly identical parallels between Liverpool’s unsuccessful Premier League campaign last year, and our potentially record-breaking campaign this year.
Liverpool and Manchester City gave the world the most exciting Premier League title race in recent memory. Where it falls in the great pantheon of title races is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is that the title race was between two of the best sides ever to grace English top flight football.
It was exciting precisely because of its uncertainty. Throughout the campaign dropped points one way or another tipped the scales to favor one side or another, but it was never a certainty for either side. Not until Manchester City reversed an early deficit, and stormed back to a commanding lead against Brighton.
The season came down to literal millimeters. Exciting, right?
However, it was always going to end badly for one team. Liverpool ended up 11 mm, or a once-in-a-lifetime Vincent Kompany goal, or an incorrectly chalked-off Sadio Mane goal, or any number of other small-but-pivotal moments away from ending their title drought.
Perhaps it is overly harsh to be critical of a side that finished with 97 points and won the European Cup, but they fell short precisely because they left the season up to chance. By not being ruthless or clinical enough at Old Trafford or Everton (or several other draws throughout the season), they left the door open for a side that had just finished on 100 points the season before. And Manchester City took that opportunity to walk right through.
By not taking the chance to press their advantage over City once they had it, they invited an exciting finish to the season.
These Reds have clearly learned their lesson. Just as they learned the lesson the hard way in Kiev. Whether in the Champions League final or the Premier League, the lesson was to leave nothing to chance. That they don’t owe the neutral fan an exciting final, nor an exciting title race. And in order to do that in the league—to leave nothing to chance—they collectively decided not to drop any points. To that end, they’ve been nearly perfect.
Individually, the games have been a bit more exciting, as West Ham proved the other night. But even these wins are starting to have an air of predictability: control the match throughout, score first, extend the lead when possible. Rinse and repeat.
Because football is football, that plan hasn’t always come to fruition. But the plan has been so effective (especially at Anfield) that it was a shock to see the Hammers not only peg Liverpool back, but to even take the lead! That was an exciting 14 minutes, let me tell you! And as we saw, even when the plan doesn’t work, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are fantastic at starting again, and doing what they need to do to get over the line. So good, in fact, that when that equalizer came on Monday night, the winner felt inevitable.
It was not a boring win on Monday night. But that Liverpool once again found a way to win? Getting a bit boring, isn’t it?
Or, at least boring to the neutrals.
Liverpool used to be known for “doing it the hard way.” Even their greatest triumphs, like Istanbul, were because of self-inflicted adversity. Honestly, I could do without this “Liverpool way.” After 30 years in the wilderness—and on the cusp of finally finding our way out—I’m thrilled by this level of predictable, boring greatness.
Four more wins.