Ah, Valentines day. It’s that day of the year where we celebrate a mishmash of pagan, Roman, and Christian traditions by buying flowers, greeting cards, and boxes of cheap candies and chocolates for our loved ones. It also happens to be the day that Captain Cook was relieved of his earthly body by native Hawaiians, but I digress. On the day of mawkish displays of romance and affection, I didn’t want to be left out, so here goes.
I know we’ve been in a committed relationship for about 15 years now, so I felt I should let you know how much I love you. We’ve been through times of great joy, as well as some really difficult moments. We were days away from administration after those two devils, Hicks and Gillette, drove you into the ground. We saw some truly disastrous performances, and saw a club and supporters completely bereft of hope, during the Hodgepocalypse. But still, I loved you.
While there were indeed some dark times, these past few years have been nothing short of bliss. Jurgen Klopp and his merry band have shown us the joy. Klopp, in conjunction with FSG and Michael Edwards, have shown that a a top tier squad can be built in a sustainable manner. It started with a series of smart buys, bringing in players like Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah that were on the cusp of becoming top class players for mid-tier player fees. Throw on top of that a series of diamonds in the rough from relegated clubs (Georgino Wijnaldum, Andrew Robertson) and academy gems (Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez), you have the start of something special. You saw just how close we were, and sprung for two world class players for then world record fees (Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker). You went from potentially very good to the pinnacle of the sport.
Over the past 3+ years, with the squad and manager in place, you’ve been consistently superhuman. You made it to the Champions League final in 2018, won old Big Ears in 2019, and then brought us the first league title in 30 years in 2020. Jurgen Klopp and the boys made us from doubters into believers.
Despite the joy of the past few years, we’ve hit a little bit of a rough patch. After years of superhuman efforts, the players and the manager look human again. A multitude of factors have played into this, of course. First and foremost, winning is hard. Winning consistently at the highest levels in the most demanding league is ludicrously hard. After three years of being at the pinnacle, a let off was inevitable. You are a team built to play with passion and emotion. You are no technical automatons like Manchester City, you were built to use the vociferous support, or derisive opposition, to drive you.
We also need to acknowledge that there is a mental tool taken by the pandemic, especially for players who don’t have family with them. Multiple players have had to self-quarantine after contracting covid-19, and we are still unsure of the physical (and mental) aftereffects of the virus on the elite athletes. And for Jurgen Klopp, there is the toll of losing his mother and not being able to be with her, or be there for the funeral.
You have also shown us just how difficult the physical demands of this game we all love can be. We’ve seen you struggle with the loss of every senior team defender for the season by mid-January. We’ve seen player after player go down with muscle injuries due to the extreme fixture congestion, to go along with more than a few severe contact injuries.
It is (well, 9) - Liverpool have been missing 8+ players for a fifth of their matches this season. With Origi and Davies confirmed as injured, that makes 19 different players who've missed at least one match through injury or illness #excuses https://t.co/BV4tAl1nAR pic.twitter.com/f1WlWgCZUa— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) February 13, 2021
Of course, all of these injuries have meant some decidedly makeshift line ups. Midfielders have been playing lots of minutes in the center of defense, throwing off the balance in the team. Players who would usually have been given time to bed in, or were only expected to play a peripheral role, have been thrown into the fire. You had us all hoping yet again when you were top of the table at Christmas, but you’ve had stumble after stumble since.
You’ve struggled to put the ball in the net, despite creating a multitude of chances and the underling metrics show you really should have been scoring at a steady clip. Even when Mohamed Salah, who is yet again leading the Golden Boot race, has started to find his form over the last few games, the rest of the team has shown a mental frailty we’ve not seen for years, falling apart in the last 15 minutes of games. While the offensive ineptitude of January was frustrating, the late collapses of February have been soul crushing.
And yet, despite the struggles, I still love you, Liverpool. There are the FIFA aficionados questioning how half the team has not been sold, with a squad of galacticos brought in. I know there are certain corners of fandom screaming into the void, calling for the ownership and manager to go because you’ve lost a few games, while displaying YNWA in their bios. Dear Liverpool, please know that I, along with anyone with a modicum of sense know that the manager and players who have been so successful did not turn to dross overnight.
Now, as with any relationship, we have our differences and squabbles. You are not infallible, just like I am not. I’m still frustrated with you taking the risk of not bringing in additional cover for central defense over the summer. I still hate how little you seem to care about the Women’s side of things, actively ignoring them as they have faded from the WSL to mire away in the FA Women’s Championship.
But Liverpool, despite your faults, and despite some struggles, I still love you. I won’t scream and beat my chest just because things aren’t perfect at the moment (though I may complain to my friends from time to time). I promise to do my best to keep things in perspective, even when it’s easy to just place blame. I didn’t abandon you when times were really tough a decade ago, and I won’t abandon you now.
I love you Liverpool.