There is a bizarre Jude Bellingham question and the penny has finally dropped with Trent Alexander-Arnold. But one baffling Liverpool take is repeated.
Liverpool had their Champions League exit confirmed on Wednesday evening. Their last-16 tie with Real Madrid was embarrassingly one-sided for about three-quarters of the total 180 minutes.
They lost by four on aggregate, conceding each of the last six goals of the tie, were beaten in both games and had nine shots to 17 in the deficit-chasing second leg.
There is only one word which accurately sums up the nature of their departure from the competition. But Liverpool fan Andy Dunn, funnily enough, is having none of it.
‘Even Jurgen Klopp, with his hands clasped almost permanently behind his back, looked subdued,’ he writes.
‘Even Jurgen Klopp had the look of a man who did not believe a miracle was ever going to materialise. Liverpool did not exactly go out of the Champions League with a whimper but nor did they give the 14-times European champions any sort of a scare.’
Liverpool really did go out of the Champions League with a whimper though. That was specifically, precisely, exactly what they did. They lost the first leg 5-2 and the second – for all the talk of miracle comebacks and anything being possible – 1-0. That is a textbook whimper.
And the Daily Mirror website agrees. This is the headline to their top story on Thursday morning:
‘OUT WITH A WHIMPER! Meek Liverpool exit Champions League as Real Madrid cruise through with comfortable aggregate win’
Dunn weirdly (and accurately) says that Real ‘were able to qualify pretty much on auto-pilot’ and Liverpool ‘knew, deep down, that the game was up after the hammering on Merseyside’. But ‘they had a bit of a crack’ in almost being out-shot two to one when needing three unanswered goals so this was no ‘whimper’.
‘But they needed more than momentum, they needed that miracle, and, in truth, we never really saw a glimmer of hope that it might arrive,’ Dunn adds of a team which ‘did not exactly go out of the Champions League with a whimper’.
For a bit of fun, the Daily Mirror back page’s take:
MIRROR SPORT: I’m sorry #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/1xu9o0UQej
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) March 15, 2023
He’s on his own with this one if even chief Liverpool cheerleader David Maddock is calling it as it is.
That is very much the theme of the awkward post-match vlogs the Daily Mirror insist on making their journalists film straight after games, with Dunn on duty in Madrid:
“Well, there are still some Liverpool fans up there to my right, behind me, still waiting to leave the Bernabeu stadium, and they’ll be wanting to get out of here as soon as they can and get back to Liverpool after seeing their side go out of the Champions League not with a whimper, but certainly never gave Real Madrid any sort of a scare here tonight.”
You are kidding absolutely no-one, Andy.
Dunn goes on to tell us that Liverpool “had the odd chance in the first half” but “the better chances were always falling to Real Madrid”.
“It was a surprise, in fact, that they took as long as they did to score that goal, with about 12 or 13 minutes to go,” he adds.
Yet still, “Liverpool didn’t, by any stretch, go out with a whimper, but nor did they really look like believing the miracle could happen. It never looked likely to happen here. The damage was done at Anfield.”
Even eternal optimist Klopp admitted “the right team went through” and “if we draw at home and play like we did tonight, we probably go out as well”. It was the dictionary definition of a footballing ‘whimper’.
How refreshing to see Dominic King of the Daily Mail write that Trent Alexander-Arnold’s performances ‘have been a cause for concern for a considerable period’ and ‘it would not be the worst thing in the world if Gareth Southgate left him out of England’s squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine’.
‘England can wait,’ he adds. Which is a rather different opinion to the apoplectic one King had when Southgate picked but did not use the Harry Potter-loving chess fan in September.
‘For all that Southgate’s decisions have to be respected, it is hard to understand how a space cannot be found in a squad for someone with Alexander-Arnold’s passing repertoire (44 Premier League assists since August 2018),’ King wrote then.
‘The old adage about form being temporary and class being permanent is true,’ he added. ‘Yes, Alexander-Arnold has found August and September challenging but he will always be one of Liverpool’s totems. For England – certainly under this regime – it couldn’t be any more different. And what a crying shame that is.’
Yet how prophetic it has proven to be from Southgate, who is due a fair few apologies from some passionate Liverpool-leaning members of the national media. Maybe it wasn’t so ‘nonsensical’ not to play a painfully out-of-form player after all?
Ring my Bell
‘Liverpool want to fight Real Madrid for Jude Bellingham but can they afford him?’ is a truly phenomenal headline from the Daily Telegraph to Chris Bascombe’s opinion piece.
Can they afford him? Who knows. But that is a slightly less pressing point than ‘Can they convince him to join them instead of the team which just breezed past them in the Champions League, particularly when they seem unlikely to qualify for the competition next season?’.
It would undoubtedly make for a headline length even the MailOnline scoff at. But it would at least not pretend that the main sticking point for Liverpool with Bellingham is money.
‘Pot calling the kettle black’ moment of the day
‘SIMON JORDAN: The Lineker lemmings that refused to appear on the BBC should all be BOOTED OUT to give the next generation a chance. They’re not big beasts. They’re dull, boring and predictable’ – MailOnline.