If I’d told you in the build-up to the derby that a 2-2 draw with neighbours Everton would be unequivocally labelled a disaster by fans, I’m sure most of you would’ve been fairly confused. On the surface, a point away to the in-form Blues is an acceptable result, although it would’ve been ideal to bounce back from the Aston Villa result with a win. But as we all know, the afternoon had so much worse to offer than two dropped points.
It goes without saying that Virgil van Dijk’s season-ending injury outweighed the underwhelming result by a fair bit. In fact, I’m quite convinced that most Reds would’ve taken another 7-2 whipping in exchange for an intact Virgil ACL. It’s entirely reasonable to suggest that the Dutchman’s injury is the single worst thing that could happen to the Reds on the pitch. Of course, the fact that he was injured by a fellow professional’s inexplicable act of recklessness, that ultimately went unpunished, does little to alleviate the heartbreak.
While the defensive situation from here on is far from hopeless, it is certainly bleak. Joe Gomez will have to make a monumental improvement on his post-lockdown form, which has been nothing short of dismal. Joel Matip’s fitness is another cause for concern, because as capable a defender as he is, stringing together more than a few games has often proven too big a feat for the Cameroon interntional. It seems inevitable that Fabinho will feature much more regularly at centre-back, which could mean that Jurgen Klopp will have to compromise on his high line and high press.
Even the biggest optimists among us Reds will do well to find a silver lining in this injury. When you think about it, it truly is that bad. And the manner in which Liverpool were denied victory on the day itself probably exacerbated that agony three-fold.
Jordan Henderson’s beautifully constructed stoppage time ‘winner’ had Red fans across the world in a state of momentary ecstasy. It was sweet redemption, after a torrid afternoon losing our best defender and seeing the rest of the team being clattered repeatedly. To have that final catharsis snatched away by one of the most marginal offside decisions to date (and the eye-test suggested that the offside lines drawn were skewed, but that’s a conversation for another day) feels like a cruel joke. We certainly could all have done with a pick-me up before the Ajax game on Wednesday.
It’s been an October to forget so far for Liverpool, and nothing can change what’s already transpired. But if there’s one thing we know for sure in this whirlpool of uncertainty, it’s that we are in capable hands. Just as Klopp has so often steered the Red ship back on course when it has swayed, he will find a way to manage this defensive crisis too.
There won’t be a ‘snap your fingers’ panacea like a January signing or youth product who turns out to be the second coming of Baresi; Nonetheless, shouts that Liverpool’s title defence is over five games in are beyond ridiculous. The first hurdle is The Champions League curtain-raiser in Amsterdam, the perfect opportunity for last year’s winners to prove that they’re still the same side without Virgil.