So Liverpool's season is going to end up as an anticlimax?

OLIVER HOLT: So Liverpool’s season is going to end up as an anticlimax? You have got to be joking!

  • Liverpool suffered their first Premier League defeat of the season at Watford
  • Jurgen Klopp’s team had already won 26 of their first 27 matches in the league 
  • The Reds then proceeded to go and get knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea
  • Fans have tried to claim this has damaged the special nature of their season

So let me get this right: Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League, they won 26 of their first 27 games and obliterated the best of the opposition and because they finally lost a game, at Watford, we are supposed to recalibrate their season as a brush with disappointment and ordinariness? Seriously?

It is funny when you think about it. Surely you can see that. They lost at Watford and got knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea and that is supposed to destroy their claim to greatness? This is a team that reached the final of the Champions League two seasons ago, won it last season and are racing away with the title this season. Not exactly a bad run of form.

Everyone has their own idea of greatness for a football team. My own benchmark is probably the Manchester United side of 1998-99.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool suffered back-to-back defeats but their season remains a special one

Some say that was not even Sir Alex Ferguson’s best United side but they won a Treble that had never been won before and has not been won since. Liverpool won’t do that this season but that does not mean this is not a great side.

So perhaps they will only win one major trophy. So what? If they do, that’s OK. Because the one trophy will be the Premier League. It’s not like it’s a consolation prize. They have already won the Club World Cup for a start and, whether you count that as a major trophy or not, it’s not like, dare I say it, they are going to be left with the Community Shield.

Yes, yes, I know, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola think the Community Shield counts as a major domestic trophy. Well, it doesn’t. Maybe the Super Cup is coveted in Spain, although the fact that they played it in Jeddah this season suggests it may not be prized too highly.

Anyway, it doesn’t change the status of the Community Shield. The Community Shield is a pre-season friendly and it doesn’t matter how many times Mourinho holds up three fingers or Guardiola shows us four fingers. It’s still a pre-season friendly.

The Reds suffered their first Premier League defeat of the season away to Watford last week

You may have noticed that the greatest managers tend not to go large on their record in the Community Shield when they are winning the biggest prizes in the game like the Champions League or the Premier League. When pickings are slim, though, it is often a different story. Being 25 points behind your rivals can do strange things to a man, even Guardiola.

The glee that poured forth when Liverpool lost at Vicarage Road was hardly a surprise. 

It is part of football — and, indeed, much of modern life — to take as much pleasure, maybe more pleasure, in the misfortunes that may be visited upon a rival than in one’s own achievements. It is nothing new.

It does feel, however, that Liverpool’s march on the title this season has spawned more bitterness and jealousy and more crackpot conspiracy theories than the triumphs of others in past seasons. Liverpool are only so far ahead, apparently, because VAR has been rigged to favour them above everyone else. Yeah, right.

For a start, if the people who operate VAR were smart enough to rig it, they wouldn’t have made such an almighty mess of implementing it in the first place.

And Liverpool are only so far ahead, apparently, because the rest of the league is so bad. Yeah, right.

Klopp’s men were then subsequently knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

That’d be the same league won by a Manchester City team the year before who played some of the most sublime football many of us can remember seeing in this country and, in 2017-18, racked up a record points total.

The more interesting question is why there has been so much joy in Liverpool’s blip. Partly because they have been so good this season, perhaps? No one likes predictability. And maybe partly because some remember the stranglehold they used to have on the English game and have enjoyed their three decades of drought too much to let go now. 

Yes, United fans and Arsenal fans breathed joint sighs of relief when they lost. There was to be no Invincibles season for Liverpool to rival Arsenal’s remarkable achievement of 2003-04. Nor was there to be any repeat of that United Treble winning season of 1998-99.

Maybe it goes deeper than that, too. Maybe Liverpool’s imminent triumph this season will spoil a lot of people’s fun. Many Liverpudlians feel they are marginalised by the rest of the country. They feel the city is looked down upon, its population lampooned, even ostracised sometimes. Winning the league in the Seventies and Eighties used to be Liverpool’s two-fingered salute to that kind of prejudice.

Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush, Tommy Smith and Emlyn Hughes, Ray Clemence and Kevin Keegan, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson and Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley were the only aristocracy they needed and the only authority they respected.

Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top and won 26 of their first 27 games in the league

Their triumphs gave the city a civic pride that could not be touched when governments were hacking away at its infrastructure. It was something that made the city the envy of the country. They lost that pride for 30 years but now, finally, it is about to return.

So don’t tell me that this season is going to be a disappointment for Liverpool. Don’t tell me it’s going to be an anti-climax. Don’t make me laugh by saying that, in some way, it will be an underachievement.

For winning 26 of their first 27 games in the league, for obliterating the opposition, for leading the table by 22 points at the beginning of March, for winning the title for the first time in 30 years and for restoring to the city something that is a symbol of its cultural worth, this Liverpool side will be remembered as a great team.

A loss at Watford and getting knocked out of the FA Cup at Chelsea doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. Guardiola can hold up four fingers all he wants but Liverpool will be content with sticking up two to everyone else.

The rest of the country will just have to suck it up.

Klopp’s Liverpool side will most certainly be remembered as a great team even if its one trophy

Punish the fan, not Dier 

I hope the FA do not sanction Eric Dier for climbing into the crowd after Spurs’ penalty shootout defeat by Norwich City on Wednesday night to remonstrate with a fan who was reportedly shouting abuse at him and arguing with his younger brother.

I admire Dier for doing what he did. He stuck up for his brother, for a start. He did the right thing.

Yes, I know, if every player did it, there would be anarchy, but if fans are going to scream abuse at their own players, maybe just now and again they should expect there will be consequences. 

The problem here is not Dier. The problem is that we have allowed the culture of personal abuse that populates social media to run free at football grounds, indulged under the umbrella excuse that fans pay their money so they can do what they want.

The thing is, that’s a kind of anarchy, too. It’s a free-for-all.

Eric Dier climbed into the crowd after Spurs’ defeat to Norwich to remonstrate with a fan

I wonder how many of those who like to be seen bidding others to ‘be kind’ think nothing of screaming abuse at their own players from their seats.

I wonder if it occurs to them that they are bullies, too. Maybe some will say today’s players are too sensitive. That they should grin and bear it. Just like in the good old days when men were men.

I’m not buying that. It’s the easy thing to keep your mouth shut.

The brave thing is to stand up to the mob.

The man screaming at Dier was a coward just like the Arsenal fans who jeered and booed their own captain, Granit Xhaka, at the Emirates were cowards.

If you give it out, you deserve to get some back. So forget punishing Dier. Punish the so-called fan instead.

Dier crossed the line but footballers should not be expected to tolerate abuse from supporters

Victims of racism are not at fault   

Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla was banned for eight games and fined £60,000 for calling Jonathan Leko ‘a f****** n*****’ while the West Brom forward was on loan at Charlton last September.

The ban is not as severe as it should have been and because of the abuse he has attracted during and since the case, Leko has been made to feel as though he has been punished, too.

Leeds United goalkeeper Kiko Casilla was found guilty of racially abusing Charlton’s Leko

‘It made me question whether I would be prepared to go through it all again were I on the receiving end of similar abuse in the future,’ said Leko.

This, sadly, is how it worked with Antonio Rudiger, too, when he protested about being racially abused by Spurs fans and how it has worked with others who have had the courage to stand up in similar circumstances.

They are made to feel as if they have done something wrong. 

Until that changes, English football’s reborn racism problem will only get worse and worse.

 Leko has recieved abuse and been made to feel as though he has been punished too 

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