A look back at LFC 2-0 Burnley...
“Burnley is Burnley. And Burnley cause you problems,” Jurgen Klopp said after a bruising encounter, epitomised by the cartoon-ish way in which Johann Berg Gudmundsson suplexed Diogo Jota to the Anfield turf in the second half.
Of course, we knew it would be like this. We’ve always known it. The fans inside Brisbane’s Lord Alfred Hotel where the Queensland Liverpool Supporter’s Club had congregated for the 9.30pm kick off knew it. My mate knew it when, pint in hand, he scrunched up his face before the game, rattled off a few choice words about Burnley’s nuisance-y nature and settled with the conclusion that he wanted us to give them “a good hammering” as a sort of once-and-for-all lesson. I muttered something in agreement and meant it.
On reflection, however, the sentiment is wrong.
In uncertain times, the certainty that Burnley will show up and do exactly what they say on the tin can be an odd sort of comfort. They’ll run, kick, jump, elbow, kick, punch and wrestle.
Why? Because when the other option is to face Sean Dyche in the dressing room having given anything less than 110 per cent, you essentially have no choice. Dyche, with his white shirt starched to within an inch of it's life. He’s harder than your mate’s dad and he’ll kick the crap out of you. The Burnley players would run through a brick wall for their manager and may actually, you feel, be made do so regularly in training.
There is nothing the commentariat finds quite so seductive as a team that plays the game ‘in the right way’. The aestheticists who worship at the altar of Roberto Martinez. Last week Liverpool swatted away a Norwich side who stick to their principles, dogmatically playing it out from the back, and will ultimately get relegated, while Burnley will not.
Jack Charlton captured it best when he returned from watching the '86 World Cup shortly after being appointed as Ireland manager.
“I’d seen the World Cup in Mexico, and it was like peas and a pod. Everybody played the same way through a playmaker in midfield, and unless the playmaker was in a good position to go at the back four, nobody would commit themselves forward.”
Fast forward a few years and Charlton had led long-ball Ireland to consecutive major tournaments, reaching the quarter finals at Italia 90. Of course, when you’ve experienced the joy of this as a supporter you can find a certain beauty and brilliance in a manager who can instil a deep level of intensity and squeeze every last drop from the talent at their disposal.
Dyche has it in spades and if you think Jurgen Klopp is cut from a different cloth then you’re missing the point.
The wild pressing, demanding of fitness levels bordering on absurdity, and obsession with marginal gains characterised by throw-in coaches and breathing lessons from German surfers paint the picture of a manager who is not only supremely gifted, but fanatical about hard work.
More than any of this, Klopp is the ultimate builder. A man who has refused the turnkey manors on offer at Madrid and Manchester for more of a ‘fixer-upper’ where he could panel beat a team into his own image, implanting an intensity and Dycheian desire to win at all costs. Just win.
And on Saturday, they did just that. Not the “good hammering” some wanted, but if you think 2-0 against a Burnley in this mood isn’t a great result, then maybe this isn’t the sport for you.
2-0 in front of real people, 55,000 in full voice, surrounded by a display of pageantry not seen in these parts since the Atletico game 17 months earlier. Goals of sublime quality. A Coutinho-ish performance from a kid who was born a year after James Milner made his Premier League debut.
Another showing from Trent Alexander-Arnold that gave rise to the thought he may have already reached the peak of his powers, joining a club of precocious scousers to have done similar that includes the likes of Owen, Fowler and Rooney. Can he get better? It’s a scary thought.
It’s not often you’ll see an assist that good, or one from that inside position he frolicked around in so often on Saturday, safe in the knowledge the house was being looked after by a minder of a rare class and, more importantly, once with genuine pace. It’s yet another way in which Van Djik exerts his influence over this Liverpool team, on top of stamping out rowdy centre forwards and nonchalantly pinging diagonals to a growing cohort of gluttonous attackers.
That’s zero defeats in 48 league games at Anfield for the Dutchman, a level of consistency and maximising of talent- albeit otherworldly- that would make Sean Dyche proud.
What Virg wouldn’t give to make it 49 when Lukaku and co roll up on Saturday.