13 days. 13 days we had to wait. 13 days after swatting aside a decent Spurs side at White Hart Lane, the Reds were finally back in action.
I actually wasn’t that bothered about this international break, heading into it. Which is rare. I could see some benefits for us. It would give our injured players a chance to step up their recovery, while not missing any games.
Stevie, now retired from England duty, could kick back somewhere sunny too, topping up his tan and (perhaps more significantly) his energy. Heading into a break on the back of a win always helps as well.
It actually seemed quite necessary.
But no, it was as soul-crushing as usual. Probably even more so. Our chief tormentor, Roy Hodgson, did what he does best – ruins our lives.
He decided to test Daniel Sturridge’s resolve again, playing the Reds’ number 15 for the entirety of a friendly against Norway. A vital friendly. Dan came through it, but Roy wasn’t done yet. A hamstring injury in training. Up to three weeks out.
Then Hodgson came worryingly close to achieving the impossible: injuring Jordan Henderson. Audacious. Luckily Hendo was having none of it and he recovered in time for England’s game in Switzerland.
Then there was big Emre Can, who rolled his ankle playing for Germany Under-21s, and could now face six weeks out according to Brendan. Just as he was finding his feet.
Joe Allen also picked up a knock, after playing 90 minutes in Andorra on a pitch that resembled an allotment – a vacant, sad allotment.
Oh, and mad Mario murdered a Wolves player during a practice match at Melwood. Or something like that.
The international break – as deplorable as ever.
Anyway, the Reds were back playing football on Saturday, and everything was going to be great. Just as Hodgson was departing our minds though, Paul Lambert arrived at Anfield with his Aston Villa side.
Like Hodgson, Lambert seems to have decided his mission in football is to depress Liverpool fans. I’m sick of him prancing up and down the Anfield touchline after a goal for his team, saluting the traveling supporters. Piss off Paul. Brendan should be prancing.
From the moment Gabby Agbonlahor put Villa ahead early on in this one, it seemed obvious nothing was going to change. There was an inevitability about it. They get their noses in front and build a metaphorical brick wall. A brick wall that we run into time and time again.
I take the blame for the goal, by the way. We’ve actually defended set-pieces reasonably well in recent times, contrary to popular narrative. And I attribute this to the fact I shout ‘Out!’ as the ball is flying into our box. It’s worked remarkably well. I didn’t do it this time; I wasn’t on my game. That’s why we conceded, and ultimately lost the game. That, and the fact Dejan Lovren has clearly spent far too much time hanging around (playing wrestling) with Martin Skrtel.
Our shambolic set-piece defending wasn’t the only thing that contributed to us coming out of this one empty handed though. In attack, we looked disjointed. This was perhaps no surprise, as of our offensive quadrant, only Philippe Coutinho had more than a single start for us.
Raheem Sterling got a rest, which I could see a smidgen of logic in given that we had a Champions League game a few days later. But, to take another angle, is he really needed against Ludogorets? Would it not have been better to play him against Villa and rest him on Tuesday?
This is all hindsight though, I know. I certainly wasn’t moaning about our side when I saw it. Besides, we’re not privy to the information Brendan and the rest of the coaching staff have. Perhaps Raheem wasn’t 100% after returning from England duty (likely) and thus leaving him on the bench here seemed the rational thing to do.
Of the new boys that started, I thought they each did quite well. Both full-backs were impressive again, tirelessly offering a wide attacking outlet and tracking back briskly when we lost possession.
Further forward, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli all showed glimpses of quality, but none of the three are fully up to match sharpness. To be fair to them, I think our inability to break Villa down stemmed from our lack of cohesion as a team, and not the individuals themselves.
There will of course be those ‘supporters’ who wearily harp on about Luis Suarez, and how much we miss him. They were out in full force on Saturday evening, I’m sure, groaning with unnecessary scorn and vigour into their beverages.
If you are one of those people, I implore you to wait and see. You may not have picked up on the positives from Saturday, but they were there I assure you. Anyway, Suarez wouldn’t have improved us at all yesterday. I guarantee you. I can guarantee you because he’d have been watching from the stands, suspended.