Liverpool’s 1-0 victory at Norwich took them 25 points clear at the top; Steven Scragg makes sense of our latest win in the wind and a team who have given a better account of themselves than most against the Reds.
Heavy weather, it all came down to the heavy weather we made of it at Carrow Road, on Saturday evening.
Storm Dennis played his part of course, which was always going to make this game a bit of a bespoke spectacle, but we emerged from East Anglia with a 1-0 victory despite a strong showing from a home team that shouldn’t really be looking up at their 19 Premier League rivals in the emphatic manner which they are.
What we have is a false-bottomed Premier League.
Norwich City find themselves in the role of the artistic weakling, a character accentuated with a beret worn at a jaunty angle.
For other examples of this, see Fulham last season, or even see Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa last season and potentially this season. Leeds are so artistically beautiful, yet fragile, that they might yet throw promotion away for the second successive campaign, thus not even taking up their opportunity to be the compelling, yet resoundingly relegated, Premier League team that everyone loves to watch.
Perplexingly, for those watching from the outside, Norwich have taken more points from the top five teams than they have from the bottom six. Norwich are a talented team that are just a little too easy to take advantage of.
There is a lot to admire about Norwich, a team that was significantly better than any other club in the Championship in 2018/19.
Yet, here they are, struggling to cope with the realities of the Premier League, in comparison to the other two teams that gained promotion with them last season: A Sheffield United who are in a shout of Champions League football, and an Aston Villa who have a better chance of staying up and are a fortnight away from a heavy League Cup final defeat.
I do have a degree of sympathy for Norwich, although it has been diluted by the “sign on” chants, which were aired by the more insufferable bores among their congregation on Saturday.
I wouldn’t mind, if Norwich didn’t have higher rates of unemployment than Liverpool, which brought a strange self-defeating and unaware poignancy to their self-indulged 1980s stereotyping session.
Norwich away has always been a bit of a Bermuda Triangle fixture, literally as far back as I can remember.
The first time I recall Liverpool going to Carrow Road was just over 40 years ago, for a mad 5-3 victory, where David Fairclough scored a hat-trick and Justin Fashanu scored that goal of the season.
In-between those two, we had all those times that Luis Suarez tortured the Canaries, plus quite a few other wild days where form books and common-sense went out of the window, even during our most empirical days.
In comparison to the travails of Norwich, Sheffield United—with their work hard, play harder ethos, an ethos that might just take them into the Champions League next season—have confronted the Premier League as if it is a two-week Club 18-30 blowout.
Foam parties, shaving off the eyebrows of the established clubs and operating on an hour of sleep before hitting the sun loungers, Sheffield United finished behind Norwich last season, yet now appear light-years ahead.
Despite this, Klopp has a shared ideal with Daniel Farke, when it comes to how football should be played. The visit of Liverpool will have been embraced by the Norwich manager, as a relief of sorts. It still wasn’t enough to stop Liverpool obtaining their 25th league win of the season though. 103 points now collected, from the last 105 on offer.
A laboured performance, by Liverpool’s inordinately high standards, it was a game won thanks to a goal of supreme confidence and ability by Sadio Mane, a chance afforded to him by another wonderful ball from Jordan Henderson, a man who will soon join Emlyn Hughes, Phil Thompson and Graeme Souness as both league title and European Cup-winning Liverpool captains.
Flashes and Outbursts
Away from Mane’s winning goal, it was a game of flashes and outbursts, amid the blustery conditions.
Alisson’s intervention was majestic as he swiped the ball away from a potential goal for Teemu Pukki; Tim Krul’s double save was mightily impressive, Norwich hit the post with what seemed to be an attempted cross and Virgil van Dijk should have won us a penalty.
Beyond the three points, the positives were multiple in this one.
It was all about the comeback kids, led by Mane.
Champions-in-waiting we are, but as the inevitable draws ever nearer, we are only going to gain in strength. These really are unprecedented times. 15 points to go, 12 games with which to do it.
They’ll find a way to be there next season, Pep Guardiola leading them for one last campaign before heading off for pastures new, pastures old, or simply a sabbatical.
A watered-down one year ban then follows in 2021/22, where City have their ‘Frank Lampard year’ to rehabilitate themselves, before gorging in the trough of excess once again.
These plotlines are written before the headlines even appear.
None of it matters though, because the Reds are on the brink of immortality.