Palace. Away. Monday night. Roy Hodgson. Mamadou Sakho. Christian Benteke. Wilfried Zaha. James Tomkins. Wayne Hennesey. James McArthur. This game had nightmare 2-0 home win written all over it. I mean, just look at that list of players. Every one of those names had the potential to turn our hopes for the season upside-down on Monday night. Roy Hodgson loves a win over Liverpool.
Mamadou Sakho is the type of guy who celebrates in front of his former faithful. Christian Benteke has scored in nearly a decade now, bound to happen here surely. James Tomkins is awful and we all know, but he’s the new Scott Dann – important goals at important times.
This game was everything we hate as Liverpool fans. Palace. Away. Monday night. Former players. Former manager. Nightmares, nightmares everywhere. All across the pitch, in every position. I don’t like this one bit. We’re on a bit of a high at the minute. The last thing we need, the last thing Liverpool could do with, is Palace away on a Monday night with Roy Hodgson in the dugout. Nah, no thanks. Give me Cardiff at home any day of the week at any point of the season ahead of Palace away on a Monday night. We all know what happened last time.
That was the old Liverpool though. The red machine has been rewired and upgraded.
It was tight, don’t get me wrong. There were a couple of times it looked like a typical Palace away on a Monday night type game. There was no panic though. There was no one throwing themselves into stupid tackles, no haphazardly bombing out of position, no giving the ball in silly areas (we’ll let Naby Keita off due to his sublime turn and ball over the top for Mo Salah to run onto).
It felt shaky and nervous. Really though, are we all just a little affected by the past? The Liverpool of a couple of years ago may have succumbed to the test and failed miserably. Dejan Lovren might have miscued a clearance straight into Benteke’s path, Alberto Moreno might have brought down Wilfried Zaha in the area, Simon Mignolet may have stayed on his line for a cross he should have been coming to claim which Tomkins would have nodded home.
Those days, dare I say, look like they’re gone. These days Virgil Van Dijk barges attackers off the ball with ease and keeps pace with them untroubled. These days Andy Robertson shows Zaha out wide, as far away from the box as possible, so he isn’t drawn into silly fouls. These days Alisson can be heard from the other end of the ground claiming that corner with authority and bowling the ball out quickly to set up a counter. These days things are different. This Liverpool are different. This Liverpool has learnt how to win.
How many times have people said, “Liverpool need to win ugly”? It became boring to hear. Jurgen Klopp started combating that as soon as he walked through the doors at Melwood. It’s clear that he sees himself more as a teacher than anything else. Last season was the beginning of the fruits of his labour. We had started to show what we have learnt under the German. This season it might just be time for the harvest. He’s added quality along the way and bought players who are square pegs in square holes. Not without giving the lads who were here first – the Mignolet’s and Moreno’s – a fair shot at proving themselves though.
But they’ve had their time now. They’ve shown that they can’t hack it and that they aren’t going to learn. When do you say that enough is enough and it’s time for a change? Only Jurgen Klopp can answer that question but it’s clear he’s made his decision on those players. Their replacements have backed up his judgement. Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, even as far back as Mane, are all upgrades on those who came before them. Now they’re settling and we are reaping the benefits of that. They are part of the new Liverpool under a new manager. Crystal Palace away on Monday night proved that.
A couple of years ago we went to Selhurst Park on a Monday night needing a win to keep the pressure up in the title race. After being 3-0 up, we caved in a drew 3-3. The back five that night was; Mignolet, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Johnson. On Monday night we went to Selhurst Park on a Monday night needing a win to keep the pressure on Manchester City at the top of the league. We won 2-0. The back five were; Alisson, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Gomez. Palace. Away. Monday night. Former manager. Former players. This is the new Liverpool and we’re just getting started.