On Saturday in the afternoon there was a bitter and merciless cold at Anfield, which was not entirely balanced by the fact that there was not much heat in the game on the pitch.
A step ahead of Wolverhampton in the FA Cup tie and a step away from Chelsea in a Premier League game that looked suspiciously like a pompous mid-table deadlock to the naked eye.
Eighth position, ten points behind place in Champions League, lagging behind such luminaries as Fulham and Brighton, the absence of our alpha centre-back, working without a surplus of attacking talent and too many players struggling for stability in the middle of our Premier League campaign and we can only hope it turns out , be a season of two halves.
Inconsistency continues to dominate the Liverpool landscape. 19 league games and we’ve failed to win three more games than we’ve won, and if you take the mirage of a 9-0 win over Bournemouth out of our results list, then our goal difference remains an unimpressive 0.
If Jurgen Klopp and his team received a midterm school report, the synopsis may not quite threaten “see you later” territory, but it will undoubtedly fall into the “needs to do better” category.
Not that Liverpool made many mistakes on Saturday, and frankly the mistakes were much appreciated, but there was a distinct lack of convincing forward movement.
Liverpool’s conservative approach
It was a safe approach, but I understand why. Just one point now from the last nine we have and confidence is still something that needs to be rebuilt and not put on the line.
We worked hard on the pitch against Chelsea and it was great to see James Milner, Stefan Baisetic and Naby Keita rewarded for their efforts at Molineux in midweek, relying on Klopp’s insistence that he is not too loyal to other players.
A simpler, safer and more predictable option would be to bring back Trent Alexander-Arnold (although he was injured), Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.
While Milner can no longer challenge his age and Keita’s future is surely outside of Anfield, Baisetic is not playing as well as he could, on Saturday he will take a huge step forward in his development. A game in which he started impressively before being increasingly held back by the yellow card he received, noticeably more restrained in the interventions he would have made had he not feared a second yellow card. As learning curves go, it was invaluable to him.
The selection of Baixetich over Fabinho was a clear confirmation of his potential and ability, and also served as a clear signal to the Brazilian that he must return to his past best to fend off the threat of the Spanish teenager.
In a world hungry for midfield recruits, it’s worth celebrating that we now have one component that can play an integral part in this long-awaited upgrade.
The second half of the season
When the second half of our Premier League campaign gets underway (well, in two weeks’ time – again against Wolves), you can take comfort from the enveloping cold.
Of the ten games we will face on our travels, only three or maybe two of them will be against teams that have league titles or Champions League aspirations behind them; Newcastle, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Meanwhile at Anfield we will be the hosts Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham and the Merseyside derby for our toughest tests.
Away to a bounce-back Fulham and on the way to last teams of the season Brentford and Aston Villa, who four months before the end will look at the standings and feel that European qualification isn’t quite their thing, although I wouldn’t, I’m not betting that these dreams will be shattered by the time May comes.
By no means a pleasant situation at the end of the league season, Liverpool’s fate could still be shaped in their own hands.
Klopp described Saturday as a small step forward, but we will have to start taking big steps forward if we are to close the widening gap and reach the top four. We’re a team that can come together as suddenly as we lock in the opposite direction, and we’re going to have to come together pretty quickly.
At the moment three of our next four league games are away and we only have one home game in this part of March, that being the Merseyside derby which, as you well know, is likely to be 0-0. . No matter how awful our blue cousins are, you just know they will arrive at Anfield with Sean Dyche as the newly appointed manager.
In addition, our next guests will be the team from Old Trafford. They represent two adversaries who have a lot invested in our suffering.
Now facing a two-week league break, Liverpool have plenty of time to think, just when we risk thinking too much about our predicament.
On the one hand, we have to play football match by match, but on the other hand, we cannot ignore the bigger picture.