As an away side, you just aren’t supposed to win at Anfield! It’s just one of those things that don’t happen in sport. Beating Liverpool at Anfield is like beating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic at the Rod Laver Arena or India on a bunsen burner in Chennai, it just doesn’t happen. For 68 games, the Reds were unbeaten at Anfield. No team had been able to breach the defences since Crystal Palace in 2017 and they have been almost perfect since 2018/19 in front of their own fans. They managed 17 wins and 2 draws in 2018/19 and bettered that in 2019/20 with 18 wins and only one draw. At times it felt as if the Kop End was a black hole for opposition teams with gravitational forces that just sucked the ball into their net.
The fans get on top of you from the word go, and it is a frightening and intimidating affair from minute 1 to 90. You aren’t just facing 11 Liverpool players; you are up against the might of 50,000 Liverpudlians. Anfield is more than just a ground, it’s an emotion. The crowd acts as a boost of adrenaline for the home side, and it’s just one of those intangibles that statistics can’t explain. Opposition teams find a way to crumble under the pressure of Anfield and it makes the Reds grow in stature. It is suffocating for away teams, the Liverpool press is relentless and the fans can smell blood, pouncing on every mistake that the opposition makes.
68 games since April 2017 without tasting defeat at Anfield. That was the second-longest unbeaten home run in the history of the Premier League after Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team that went undefeated between 2004 and 2008 at home. But that unbeaten run had little to do with the aura of Stamford Bridge and was more about the quality of the side Chelsea had, which included the likes of Cech, Terry, Carvalho, Drogba, Lampard and Essien at their prime. Liverpool’s unbeaten run was more than the team though, it was about the magic of Anfield.
View this post on Instagram
That magic, however, no longer exists and the spell has unfortunately been lifted. After 68 games without a loss at their home stadium, Liverpool have lost six games on the bounce at their fallen fortress. Yes, you read that right, six. That has never been done before in the history of the club.
Burnley were the first team to break through the walls and breach the enemy gates. They defended resolutely for 90 minutes and snatched a cheeky goal thanks to a late penalty from Ashley Barnes. Then 2 weeks later it was Graham Potter’s Brighton who nicked another 1-0 win. 4 days after that Liverpool’s championship rivals Manchester City were in town and ransacked the place and tore Liverpool to shreds in a 4-1 victory. After that was probably the one that hurt the most, City rivals Everton hadn’t won at Anfield since 1999 but Carlo Ancelotti managed to put on a masterclass to earn the Toffees a famous victory behind enemy lines. And finally, Chelsea and Fulham were the latest clubs to inflict damage to the fallen Liverpool warriors as both West-London clubs earned crucial 1-0 victories against Klopp’s men.
The congested calendar created by the effects of the pandemic has riddled Liverpool with injuries and depleted their infantry. Their cavalry has been misfiring due to the imbalance in the system and due to social distancing guidelines, they have lost the support of the general public in the stands. Every team has had to go through all this, but Liverpool had the extra edge at Anfield with their relationship with the fans and that has hurt them more than most. Yes, they have also had injuries, but that can’t be an excuse. Liverpool have still had Champions League and Premier League winners on the pitch for all five of those defeats and the injuries don’t explain why Liverpool have only scored one goal at home in their last seven league games.
Opposition teams are also wary of this change, they no longer fear the tie. Liverpool can no longer drown you out with their fans or pressing and the teams can play their own brand of football without second thoughts. Nights against Barcelona in 2019 or Borussia Dortmund in 2016 are now just nothing more than a distant memory, fading away after each defeat. Until the fans return and the magic spell is restored, Anfield is no longer the dreaded assignment or the impenetrable stronghold…it is simply the fortress that was!
[Image Credit: Liverpool FC]