Liverpool, West Ham, football’s narrative and the longest tweet you’ll ever read

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Formulating, presenting and articulating an article in 140 characters isn’t enough, as Mark Jones explains off the back of Liverpool’s depressing 3-1 defeat at West Ham on Saturday.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 20, 2014: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard looks dejected as West Ham United score the third goal during the Premier League match at Upton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This isn’t about tactics.

So many things are about tactics these days aren’t they? Tactics and stats. Tactics, stats and an almost fanatical devotion to the joke.

Every issue is broken down to a tweet, six seconds of video or a Photoshopped picture. That’s it. That’s all our attention span can handle these days. You’re this because this says you are. LOL.

Liverpool railed against that last season. We were top on Christmas Day and I remember joking to mates I’ve made since moving south that we wouldn’t stay there, but secretly I thought ‘you know what? F**k you.’ No other teams really scared me. We lost at Chelsea just before New Year and fell to fifth but I wasn’t panicking. The Vines were out that night, too.

Was it arrogance? No. Although I’ve since heard people say it was.

There is a difference between a ‘we’re going to win the league’ attitude and actually believing that you’ll win the thing, but somewhere in the April-May fog that seemed to get lost in translation. There was a meme doing the rounds during the final Newcastle game that simply spelt out the words of that age old ‘we’re going to win the league’ chant – the one that Southampton fans will jokingly be singing now, and Villa’s did at Anfield – next to a picture of Liverpool supporters, claiming that that’s what we were singing during the 6-3 win at Cardiff. We were, but it wasn’t the statement of fact it was being presented as here. That’s not how chants work. I knew the Neville family didn’t really do those things.

I should explain now that part of my life involves keeping track of such social media bollocks. At weekends one of my freelance jobs involves running the Twitter account for a fairly well-known bookmaker, and these sort of cheap laughs are encouraged. They were at the even more well-known bookmaker I worked for before, too.

It happens. There is always the running joke. Every missed chance gets compared to Torres, every transfer fee to Carroll’s. The Gibbs & Oxlade-Chamberlain red card thing was a godsend for many whose well had run dry once Aaron Ramsey started getting goals regularly, thereby removing that whole ‘he kills famous people when he scores’ thing. Heady days.

Liverpool were so good last season that so many tweets remained unsent, just saved in the drafts folder and then eventually deleted. Then Gerrard lost the ball against Chelsea (watch it again, masochistically. He’s lost possession before the slip), Aspas took his corner, people remembered the post-City game captain’s speech, nine months of emotion left the body in about nine minutes at Palace. It was a free-for-all.

Everything that everyone had been wanting to say for months was now out there, and we couldn’t do anything to stop it. The fact that we were all still buzzing off our tits at how great the season was would be ignored because a daft tweet from someone with a Liver Bird avatar had gone viral. Obviously this fella and his 17 followers represents how we all think. There can be no other logical explanation.

A narrative was formed then, and after West Ham we’ve walked right into the middle of it now.

Most of it, like everything else, centres around Suarez. We’ve spent three years listening to how much of a disgrace we are for indulging him, how we should have sacked him or fired him out of a cannon or something, and now we’re a worse team because he’s gone. No mention of the fact that the mad little b**tard still can’t play for another five weeks because of his latest bout of idiocy.

This might be the old rose tinted glasses going on here though, but I tend not to think of Luis Suarez when I remember the key moments of last season.

He didn’t score in the Arsenal 5-1, he got the fourth in the 4-0 derby and the third in the 3-0 at Old Trafford – adding to the damage not causing it – and he was a bit of a liability in the Man City 3-2. In fact he was lucky not to be sent off.

My point is that despite what the 140-character ‘b*nt*r’ merchants will have you believe, the brilliant madness which engulfed the final four months of the season weren’t all down to him, so why has it disappeared now?

The answer lies in status.

Last season we simply couldn’t give a f**k. We’d turn up, play you and probably win. To hell with the consequences.

Now Suarez has gone, loads of new players have turned up, Brendan Rodgers is the man to lead England to glory, with Sterling and Sturridge scoring his goals. Jordan Henderson is a statesman. There’s the Champions League. Oh Jesus, the Champions League.

Given the way that’s been talked about you wonder why we even bothered entering it. Before the West Ham game the Sky presenter asked pundit Gianfranco Zola if he thought that playing in it was a factor in some of our low-key performances this season. He said it was. This was five days after Ludogorets. We hadn’t actually played anyone post-Champions League yet.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 20, 2014: Liverpool's Mario Balotelli in action against West Ham United during the Premier League match at Upton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

But that’s what’s been written, isn’t it? The same way that it’s been written that Mario Balotelli is going to do something daft and let us all down, that Adam Lallana will be just another overpriced English flop, that Steven Gerrard is finished. You can either just accept that and follow along with it or you can rail against it. Last season’s Liverpool would have railed against it, but have we got the energy to do that any more?

I’ll admit that for the first part of last season all I was bothered about was being better than United, Everton and Spurs, because if we were then that’d mean we’d finish fourth.

This new, genetically modified United has made my mind drift back towards those thoughts again already, and maybe that’s what we should all be doing for now. Just be better than those three for a bit and then all the Vines and memes will stop.

Defensively we’re a mess, but that’s more to do with organisation than personnel. Dejan Lovren has already looked a very good defender with another Premier League team, and Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel probably would do, too.

The young full-backs are brilliant, and would have fitted right into all that was going on last season. Lallana is a lovely footballer, so elegant and poised, but he just wants that extra second at the moment. Last season’s team didn’t have that second, or if they did it was being used to embarrass you. See Sterling’s goal against City.

Balotelli’s back story fits in with everything that they are saying about us right now, which is what made him such a balls out signing. Lazar Markovic is going to need time, but we haven’t got time. Philippe Coutinho is going to need patience, but we don’t have that either. We want the moon on a stick, but instead we’ve got Rickie Lambert.

What happens from here? The League Cup, and then a derby next weekend.

This time a year ago we’d just lost 1-0 at home to Southampton. People still thought United and Spurs were better than us. Some said Everton, too.

I honestly don’t know what to think of the title challenge right now, but I also know that I wasn’t even entertaining one five games in to last season.

But then that’s football for you. The unexpected happens.

And it takes a lot more than 140 characters to explain it.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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