A dismal, dreadful derby defeat in a senseless, stupid, season. Upon reflection, it appears there’s not much sense in anything this term, so why should Liverpool be different?
If there’s one big advantage to be taken from watching teams and leagues beyond ‘your own’ – our own, in this case – it’s the broader scope for comparison and judgement it brings.
You’re not just looking at Liverpool now versus Liverpool then. You’re not just seeing a points tally decline and a growing list of injuries that is isolated to L4.
It wasn’t a day of easy reflection for Liverpool supporters, after the defeat to Everton. But it’s even less easy for those fans to make sense of the campaign overall – not helped by the flawless approach Man City have been able to plan, manage and execute.
But in that regard, they are almost without peer this year, not just in the Premier League but pretty much in the entire elite footballing universe.
This is a season where Bayern Munich can become 2020 Club World Cup champions without even playing in that competition during that year – then go home and immediately fail to beat Arminia Bielefeld and Eintracht Frankfurt in back-to-back games.
This is a season where Kylian Mbappe and PSG announce their ‘arrival’ as the world-leading replacements for Lionel Messi and Barcelona, yet follow it up with a sixth league loss of the season. The last time they lost that many, they weren’t even owned by Qatar Sports Investment.
This is also a season where PSG aren’t even in the top two of their domestic league, where LaLiga’s big two are seen as an irrelevance on the European scene (and neither are top of their domestic league), where Juventus are at best third in Serie A (they are sixth but play Monday night) and Borussia Dortmund are sixth.
So Liverpool are a million miles from being the only champions or title-fighting side who are, well, failing to do so.
And yet even by those standards, Saturday was a culmination of abominable misfortune and timing.
Nearly four years without a home league defeat, now we can’t buy one. Ninety-eight years without four straight home league losses, until now. More than 20 years since Everton won at Anfield, but now they have.
This was a footballing equivalent of not just seeing Halley’s Comet, but getting hit by it.
We all know the biggest and baddest reason for the dropoff: those absent central defenders. It destabilises everything, from buildup play to, obviously, actually defending.
At one stage we had the entire diamond of goalkeeper, centre-backs and holding midfielder missing – bad enough at any time, worse when three of the quartet can claim to be at least world class, and quite possibly best-in-class.
Put another way, Liverpool have played more centre-back partnerships this season than two clubs have Premier League points.
And despite these issues at one end of the pitch, it’s pointless trying to pretend there aren’t problems in attack, too.
The movement off the ball is non-existent at times, which has a knock-on effect of limiting link play, one-touch exchanges, allowing good crosses and disrupting the opposition’s own defensive line.
Without question, movement is the single most important attribute an attack can have, and that increases exponentially when the back line has eight well-drilled players in it.
Teams know how Liverpool play now and know how to defend against it; previously, we’ve still been able to beat even those best-set-up teams by sheer relentlessness, self-belief and speed of movement. All three are now absent, so we don’t.
A change seems likely to be needed, whether by formation or a different overall style – tough to implement mid-season – to get back to troubling teams in the attacking third.
Putting players into different areas of the pitch forces different buildup patterns and gets different individuals combining in new (better, hopefully) areas, which is less predictable for defences.
The other change we’ll see from clubs beyond Anfield is likely to be a shifting of focus from domestic tables to European hopes.
Spurs are well outside the top four, for example, and in even worse form than Liverpool – but Mourinho knows how to win games over two legs. They could get in the Champions League by winning the Europa League, even if they finish 30 points behind us.
Similar approaches might well be seen by Real Madrid or Atalanta, as well as Man United and Leicester – both of whom look safe for top four, but with no chance of the title.
Do Liverpool even get allowed to make the distinction? Probably not. There’s very little chance we could reasonably look at our style, our in-form players and our consistency and say: we’d beat Bayern. Or City, come to that.
So a full focus on league results is probably the priority still, despite having ‘more chance’ of success in Europe.
In the summer comes the Euros, but there will be a period of reset for some. Hopefully, those involved for more than a couple of weeks will be given an enormous rest afterwards, because it’s badly needed for some.
After three such terrific years of style and results, this year is very hard to explain or to deal with for some Liverpool supporters. It’s understandable, and it’s also natural to want to vent at something, someone, but sadly that doesn’t mean there is a single person who bears the blame.
Cause isn’t the same as fault, and it’s important to remember that when frustrations rise.
There unquestionably have been missteps, poor judgement, under-performance, misfortune, bad timing, pure coincidence and false dawns.
Yet every single one of those factors can also be applied to the wider global landscape over the past 15 months, which has had the knock-on effect of belting the football world off-kilter for nearly a year.
Liverpool have suffered from that, just like others have, but the jolt has compounded and been magnified for Reds supporters – and players, it can be argued – simply because they were at a higher point at the moment of shaking the tree.
This is a crazy, stupid, largely awful year to deal with and football should have been a big way to balance it out somewhat, but for Reds fans it isn’t.
And there’s little sense rationalising or reasoning through much of it – beyond the obvious – because it’s not just Liverpool who are affected.
This is an outlier season, an opportunity for some and a car crash for others, the real campaign with an asterisk beside it, and it’s far from over yet.