A Liverpool defeat was always going to be significant, certainly overblown, given the length of wait for it and the resulting connotations.
After 422 days, Watford delivered the fatal blow to the European champions’ ambitions of becoming the next grade ‘Invincibles’, which Arsenal’s Twitter responded to with a simple yet mood-matching ‘Phew.’
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Liverpool had long anticipated such a glee-soaked reaction from those sans affiliation to the club if they were stifled given their staggering numbers and predicted an overreaction from some their own supporters, who’d become spoilt and expected perfection without an appreciation of the effort taken to get this far.
There had also been conversations within Melwood as to whether the constant talk of records, of resetting history, was starting to hamper the players.
On Saturday evening, Klopp had suggested as much. “It was always clear that sometime we would lose a game,” the German said in the aftermath of a diabolic performance, the club’s worst of the season in which absolutely nothing functioned as expected.
“We didn’t wait for it, but it was clear it would happen – we didn’t think about it, but we knew it would happen and it has happened.
“Now I see it rather positive because the closer you come to these records … I am not bothered, but I am not sure how other people think about it, so now on we can play free football again, we don’t have to defend or try to get a record, we can just try to win football games again and that is what we will do.”
While the talking point has rotated around the malfunction of Liverpool’s defence against Watford given they have conceded twice or more in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since December 2016, they need to shake from their offensive slumber too.
Their attack starts the basis for the side’s protection work and ensures that the rearguard are never overburdened due to the opposition’s concern over the explosiveness of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
The Egypt forward attempted two shots against Watford, while both of the supporting cast managed none. Liverpool had just one shot on target in a top-flight fixture for the first time since February 2019 in a goalless draw against Manchester United.
Since returning from the mid-season break, Liverpool’s creative powers have lessened, as evidenced at Norwich and Atletico Madrid as well.
“There were little football things that didn’t work out for us like from where we wanted to cross, from where we wanted to pass, when we wanted to play the balls in behind, when we used the runs,” Klopp said specifically about the build-up failings against Watford.
“Things we usually do naturally right, we didn’t do it right so that makes a game already pretty intense, where you think ‘it’s not an easy one today’. I knew it before it was not easy, but then you really feel it.
“We had not enough chances, we didn’t create enough and that’s what leads then to a defeat, that’s how football is.”
There is a natural inclination to put this down to a breakdown in rhythm due to the winter interval, but in truth, Liverpool’s basis for their 22-point lead at the summit has been down to their fight rather than uncontainable firepower.
Thirteen of their 26 league victories were by a single goal margin too. The Merseysiders have had to overcome bruising tests before they were ultimately battered at Vicarage Road.
“All teams have the same. It is normal in football. Shape is not something that you can take for granted, form is not something you can take for granted,” Klopp explained.
“My team, why do we have the amount of points we have? Because we fought against each little feeling in the body, when the concentration level looked like it would drop, we fought against that, against fortune, against everything and that’s why we have the amount of points.
“Other teams do the same but in this season couldn’t get the same amount of points, that’s because it’s so difficult. It’s not easy to explain why it didn’t happen for us against Watford, but it should not be now the biggest sensation in world football that it happened.
“We fight already for the whole season like crazy and here we lost that battle. What can I say now, that it’s not acceptable or whatever? We don’t think it’s not so important because we won so many games, but we don’t think as well that it’s the biggest catastrophe in the world of football.
“We feel the defeat really, it’s absolutely exactly the opposite of what we wanted to have. We have to feel that and now we have the chance to show a reaction again and that’s what we will do.”
Liverpool will still gain the prize they crave most, the holy grail of the title and they can break the European points record with ease if they continue with this form for the rest of the campaign – 107 at their average of 2.82 per game.
They can wrap up the earliest Premier League crowning ever, currently held by Manchester United who won the 2000/01 championship on 14 April.
Klopp, though, will not want these potential achievements to constantly be flagged as he needs Liverpool to play “free football again.”