Nobody saw it coming, but Liverpool’s 7-2 mauling at the hands of Aston Villa was a product of their own ethos, and now it is about how Jurgen Klopp sparks a response.
As shocking as the outcome was at Villa Park on Sunday evening, the way Liverpool play with such openness will always lead to the lottery of a potential hammering here and there.
Granted, this was the hammering to end all generational hammerings – the first time Liverpool have conceded seven goals since 1963 – but being empathetically turned over is not a new experience for Jurgen Klopp.
Power Failure at Mainz
Periodically on the receiving end of a chastening result while the manager of Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, it is the concept that if you stick your head above the parapet all the time, it will get hit now and then.
Sunday was the German’s biggest defeat as a manager in terms of scoreline, but previously came a 6-1 loss to Werder Bremen, a 5-0 defeat to Man City and a 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich.
Klopp was even once relegated through his ethos for openness.
A footballing Muhammad Ali, as such, a man who stuck his chin out on countless times to provoke a swing and a miss, only to have his jaw broken on one occasion by the big-hitting Ken Norton.
The games, weeks and months ahead will let us know just what bearing a defeat like this will have on Liverpool, but my feeling is that it will focus their resolve.
Demands will be made by Klopp of his players and he will expect them to be met.
Villa Park wasn’t a simple defeat, it was a full-moon occurrence; hopefully, a once-in-a-footballing-lifetime experience.
A game that was closer in resemblance to a kid’s game down the local park than it was one that resides in one of the world’s highest-profile leagues.
More concerning would be a narrow loss at Goodison Park a week on Saturday. Almost a fortnight without a game, Klopp has now been bestowed with thinking and brooding time.
In the Merseyside derby, Liverpool can either respond positively and with a determined focus, or they can try too hard to make amends, in turn frustrating themselves and getting more things wrong than they get right.
There are obvious worries ahead. Losing Alisson for six weeks is undeniably a massive blow, more so given Adrian’s unremittingly erratic performance at Villa Park – one that will be a test of his mental strength.
At Villa Park, the gifts were handed out early and the hosts greedily accepted them.
Aston Villa, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, could easily have been playing their football in the Championship this season, but are thriving on their late reprieve from the drop – a drop that had loomed exceedingly large a couple of months ago.
A team will hit a performance in the sweet spot like Villa did on only a few occasions, but it is unusual to play so well and match that performance in terms of strokes of outrageous fortune.
That said, before he scored, Ross Barkley could have had a hat-trick.
It was such a ludicrous evening that at one stage Klopp was reduced to laughter, while Dean Smith and John Terry exited the pitch with stunned expressions.
With the need to roll and adapt to the curveballs thrown in our direction, we got it badly wrong. This was Watfordesque, except multiplied.
Despite the missing elements, Klopp deployed a midfield that should have been up to the job in hand, yet Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum and Naby Keita struggled to work as a unit and were bypassed for much of the 45 minutes they played together.
Takumi Minamino entered the fray in place of Keita, and what precarious grasp on balance that remained was jettisoned. It was an open invitation for Villa to cut through us at will.
The rumbling murmurs of discontent over the form of Roberto Firmino have now been given amplification.
While form and luck smiled on Villa, it was the complete opposite for Liverpool. Terrible positioning, poor pass selection and a generally shambolic approach to the game were offset by fortune not favouring us.
Both the referee and VAR turned a blind eye to a decent penalty shout, while Emi Martinez made himself difficult to beat, yet when push came to shove we got far too many of the fundamentals wrong. We struggled to complete the basics.
It isn’t a case of forgetting a ‘bad day at the office’, what Liverpool need to do is remember this game and how it felt. We’ve been here in the past. Some great Liverpool sides have been ambushed before.
What they all did was recalibrate and move forward even more forcefully.
Now, we apprehensively wait to see if all our international call-ups return with a clean bill of health and injury-free.
Two weeks is a long time in football at the best of times, but even more so within the grasp of a global pandemic.
It would be plus just to have a game to play, where we can put this wrong to rights.