Home Sport Liverpool zog einen weiteren Hasen, aber sein Feenstaub könnte verblassen

Liverpool zog einen weiteren Hasen, aber sein Feenstaub könnte verblassen

von NFI Redaktion

While I shouldn’t let my frustration with how MLB has tainted its regular season seep into my soccer reporting, it was hard not to think about how Rob Manfred simply discarded those moments during the regular season that hinted at more to come as I watched Darwin Nunez score the winning goal in the 99th minute to keep his team at the top of the table. Back when the MLB playoffs were tough to reach, fans in June or July would rejoice over certain games that seemed to transcend just the quality or talent of a team. A comeback win in extras (back when extra innings weren’t a gimmick), a crazy 13-12 victory, a series win against a rival, anything could slip into the realm of „baseball magic“ where fans felt there was just something specific or inexplicable about their team. A spirit bestowed upon them from above. That doesn’t happen, at least not to the same extent, with teams with 84 wins that fill in, or with the top teams for whom the regular season is a foregone conclusion.

Erling Haaland wants to break records | Premier League

But soccer still has it. In abundance, in fact. Liverpool was flat against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. The starting XI, essentially forced to play four games in eleven days, looked quite lethargic, and they basically squeezed out the most they could from a front line consisting of Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo, and Harvey Elliot. Conor Bradley lost some momentum, as is the case with 20-year-olds who played only one full 90 minutes in the first four months of the season and then started ten games in two months, all while coping with the loss of his father. This meant Liverpool didn’t have the same attacking prowess on the right wing, and with Andrew Robertson still finding his feet after a long injury layoff, they also lacked the necessary strength on the left side. It was the second game in a row where Liverpool had to deploy Joe Gomez in midfield, and while he didn’t look completely lost there, it was clearly a step back in the creativity and positioning they get when Alexis MacAllister and Wataru Endo occupy that spot (and guess who worked together to make Nunez the winner?).

Twenty-two shots may sound like complete dominance, but the fact that Liverpool could only put two on target paints a clearer picture. Forest got just as many. As the game progressed and Liverpool could employ more players from their squad, with Nunez, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Endo returning from injury, there were many tangible reasons why Liverpool won the game. They have incredibly talented players like MacAllister, who can deliver a cross with his weaker foot and a defender on his back. They play until the final whistle, never accepting the offered result if it isn’t enough. Thanks to their endless energy, their pressing during a game can open up chances, as it did in the 99th minute. But ask any Red, maybe even one who spent a good 45 seconds jumping around his girlfriend’s living room, limbs flailing uncontrollably, writing a Premier League recap for Deadspin on Mondays, if there isn’t something a little more orderly to the whole thing. Something is in the water. Soccer magic?

Of course, it could all fall apart next week because…4. City doesn’t look great but keeps winning, so they either stop winning or look great. What would you bet on? The Manchester Derby story on Sunday showed how limited Manchester United was and basically had to opt for City to win the game. It was another game where City collected three points due to individual brilliance rather than their usual automation efficiency. The problem for everyone else is that they have so many players who can simply press the „AI“ button of a video game, preventing you from winning and forcing you to buy a new controller after smashing your original one against a wall. United essentially played a 4-2-4-0, with Bruno Fernandes acting as a false nine, Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho doubling up with their full-backs to nullify City’s wide threats rather than trying to counterattack, with Casemiro, Kobbie Mainoo, Scott McTominay, and Fernandes forming a box midfield directly in front of the defense. It seemed more about avoiding embarrassments than trying to win, but it worked for 55 minutes. Especially when Rashford showed his only moment of competence in the last few months:

Of course, he did that a few minutes later as well:

In the first half, City repeatedly faced blockages or moves in the 18-yard box, or shots from distance. Lately, they’ve rarely done something where they string together 87 passes and then someone stands a yard and a half away from the opponent’s goal with the ball, causing every defender to fall over from exhaustion or dizziness trying to keep up. But then those long-range shots are a pretty good plan when Phil Foden is around:

Part of this is due to Victor Lindelof and Jonny Evans losing their gas after their efforts in the first half, opening up space for Foden. But it doesn’t matter. Foden would net a second goal thanks to a delightful combination with Julian Alvarez, before Erling Haaland could make up for a comical miss in the first half, as Sofyan Amrabat demonstrated what a terrible acquisition he was with an eight-minute cameo. The efficiency!

Still, this was another game where City didn’t look like CITY, but they had enough winners on the field that someone would eventually come up with something. Lately, it’s been mainly Foden. It was De Bruyne against Newcastle, Haaland against Brentford. Perhaps they’re saving it for their meeting at the OK Corral next Sunday in Liverpool. Maybe this is the model they can ride for the rest of the season. This has led them to be unbeaten in all competitions for 17 games.

3. Everton remains the weirdest of all time

In a week where they got a reprieve and picked up four points due to their PSR penalties, essentially freeing them from relegation danger, you would think Everton would have played against West Ham with some freedom and joy. Which they did, but in their very own way. They lost 1-3, conceding two late goals in stoppage time of the second half, but again produced more than enough to win. It was Everton’s 10th straight win in the league, but in these 10 games, they scored seven goals while producing 13.8 xG. In this series, they only won the xG battle twice, against Man City (that’s going to happen), Wolves, and Brighton (that’s going to happen, and they drew from it). But since September, we’ve been saying that the upcoming fixture list shouldn’t be of any help if the additional PSR fee costs them points. The next three games either side of the international break are all away matches at United, Bournemouth, and Newcastle. After the battering from Burnley, they play at Chelsea before hosting Forest in a deduction points palooza. They could make this very interesting for themselves if they continue to have agoraphobia towards the space between the posts.

2. Luton could have been worse for Everton all season

Luton Town is a great story with its tiny little stadium in the courtyard of a townhouse, limited resources, and a squad that somehow looks like a parody of a soccer team from the 1970s, like a soccer version of The White Shadow. But if they were to participate in the Championship playoffs again in May, the cuteness will likely fade behind thoughts of what could have been. Because Luton has too often dropped points late at home, making it hard to simply be the plucky guys who took advantage. They conceded a late equalizer against Liverpool. A late winner against Arsenal. They lost to Sheffield United outright. They squandered a lead against Man City. And after fighting back from a 0-2 deficit…

**please note that the text has been shortened for brevity**

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