Reflecting back on a frustrating festive period for the Blues, Chelsea fan and columnist Giles Smith places our blip in the context of a campaign that has seen sticky patches for all the top sides...
Naturally, and understandably, the press, always alert for that point where a blip turns into a crisis, have been all over it. An expensively assembled team, thronging with talent and widely assumed to be among the title contenders, comes embarrassingly a-cropper in the notoriously treacherous Christmas period and is left looking dazed and sluggish and blinking in confusion.
But enough about Liverpool. To be fair, it’s not been a particularly great holiday season for us, either, and certainly not the fortnight-long, bell-ringing, ice-skating bonanza that, back in mid-December, we might have been hoping for, or even expecting given our team’s rampant, unbeatable, free-scoring form at that point and the fact that Hakim Ziyech was fit again last Sunday.
But no. I’m struggling to remember a flatter Christmas or one where, metaphorically speaking, the tree lost its needles quite so comprehensively, to the point where it ended up looking like a big ugly twig come Twelfth Night.
And, by the way, during this global health emergency, I entirely hear the argument that, at this precise moment in history, there are far more important things to be getting upset about than the results of football matches. I absolutely hear it, even though it’s always my impression that the people making this argument most loudly at any point haven’t necessarily just witnessed their team falling three goals behind to Manchester City just a very short time after seeing that same team fall three goals behind to Arsenal – and at Christmas, too, with the decorations up.
Also, is it strictly accurate to say that ‘there are other things going on in the world right now’? In some respects, and definitely at certain points in the week, there are NO other things going in the world right now apart from football, because everything else is closed and we all finished Netflix, the BBC iPlayer, All4 and even YouTube a couple of months ago.
So, yes, even in the midst of an unprecedented and still unfolding pandemic, (amid something, you might say, which is most definitely not a blip, and is most definitely a crisis) I’ll admit to having devoted some time this past fortnight to feeling glum and even a touch perturbed about some football results.
Even so, one attempts to retain a sense of perspective amid the noise and the smoke, and to seek one’s consolations wherever one can find them. And the simple fact is this: over what we might term (if we were trying to compose a carol) ‘the four games of Christmas’, stretching back in our case to West Ham at home, Liverpool have secured exactly one more point than we have.
And none of their games was against a team as good as Manchester City, or even against a team as good, at the moment, as Aston Villa. For the record, Liverpool have played Crystal Palace, West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton. They have scored only once in the last three of those games. And all of this without anyone suggesting at any noticeable volume that their manager should be replaced and their ongoing project abandoned.
So, yes, at this stage, I’m still broadly in favour of filing it all under ‘Christmas blip.’ A Christmas blip like Liverpool’s, indeed. Moreover, a blip in what has been up until now, for practically every team in the league barring our own, very much the season of the blip.
Certainly one very much admires Frank Lampard’s public view of the current situation as a set of problems to be worked on and solved by diligent application at home. By contrast, Jurgen Klopp in his frustrated agonies, seems to have been reduced to complaining that Manchester United get too many penalties. Really, Jurgen?
You want to join in with that age-old grievance NOW? Some of us have been pointing out this ‘fact of football’ for as long as we can remember, way back into the deep and dark years of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, for all the good it has done us. Complaining that United get all the penalties is as flat and overdone as complaining that the buses always come in bunches.
Credit us with one thing at least, in this forgettable past fortnight: we have regenerated Arsenal. Since we visited them on Boxing Day, bearing beautifully wrapped presents, there is widely agreed to be a whole new vigour and swashbuckling brio to the former relegation contenders – just for now, at any rate, until they hit their next blip - and it’s clearly down in some significant measure to our generosity over the holiday period. Not that anyone from over in that direction is ever likely to thank us for it, but never mind. We do what we can.
And now bring on Morecambe, and after them Fulham and let’s put this faulty period behind us and never speak of it again.