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Sunday 25 September 2016

Vanity is at the root of terrible inconsistency

Liverpool defender Ragnar Klavan and manager Jurgen Klopp walk off the pitch at the end of Saturday’s Premier League defeat to Burnley.
Liverpool defender Ragnar Klavan and manager Jurgen Klopp walk off the pitch at the end of Saturday’s Premier League defeat to Burnley.

Back in the early 80s, Graeme Souness brought Liverpool to Blackpool to play a testimonial after a drowning tragedy in the seaside town.

It was a nice thing to do and the locals were obviously delighted we turned up so nobody was expecting much more than a handy friendly when the game got under way.

After about 15 minutes and yet another potential leg-breaker from the lad who was marking me (literally) in midfield, Souey pulled a few of us together and told us in no uncertain terms that the friendly nature of the game and the occasion didn't mean we should roll over and get beaten up.

So we switched it on, moved up through the gears and gave as good as we were getting physically. I think we won 5-0.

I tell this tale for no other reason than to show the pride that was in our group. It was Souness who said it but it could have been any one of a half dozen doing the same thing. The problem was sorted on the pitch and we didn't need to be told by the manager.

Consistent

It may have been a friendly with nothing at stake but our group mentality was consistent. No surrender.

This morning at Melwood when the Liverpool players gather to digest the implications of another surrender to self-doubt, I think I'm probably right to suggest that there won't be much noise.

I certainly can't imagine any of this squad doing what we would have done after losing a game to Burnley in the way Liverpool lost on Saturday.

I know that for a half hour, we would have been kicking each other around the training pitch until someone shouted stop from the touchline and everyone took a breath. Mostly that's all that was needed. The players knew.

I wonder does anyone in this squad have a right go. I wonder is there a leader among them with courage to point the finger.

But then again, who would have the right?

I look at dressing rooms at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and the Etihad and I see players with medals.

I see men who know what to do when things are going well and more importantly, no what to do when things are going badly.

At Liverpool at the moment, I only see players who know what to do when things are flowing nicely.

I hear a lot of Liverpool fans say we have "lovely" players but I would much prefer to hear them talk about winning players, battlers.

I know that in my day, we won titles by battling for most of the games in a season. I know we won by grinding and fighting for every yard. There was nothing pretty about and you couldn't really call it "The Beautiful Game".

Memory can play tricks and edit out the bad bits for fans but I was there and I know that most of the games during Liverpool's glory years were not about Dalglish's genius or Ian Rush's incredible scoring ability or any of the other wonderful players we had spanning 20 years.

They were about dogged determination to win or in some cases, not to be beaten. That was the starting point and I just don't see it with this team.

For five or six seasons Liverpool have had the same problem and it has happened under different managers.

It seems to me that these players are missing a key component. They can do it against the big teams but almost always mess up immediately afterwards.

It is all but pointless at this stage to detail the problems because I'm simply repeating the same things I've been saying now for most of this decade.

I was watching Stevie Gerrard playing for La Galaxy on Sunday morning, firing 40-yard diagonal passes to feet and thinking that Liverpool have no one with the same courage or vision.

It seems to be that vanity is at play here. The players beat Barcelona 4-0, think they are world beaters and then get battered by Mainz.

They take a 4-1 lead against Arsenal and then sit back and admire their work, hanging on in the end when it should have been comfortable.

Then they go out and lose to Burnley, a team that did nothing more than sit back in their positions and invite Liverpool to score.

Have they no pride?

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