Neil Humphreys: Liverpool's critics need to get a grip
Blaming Liverpool for their late-season lapse shows ignorance
Liverpool's latest match - a 2-1 defeat by Arsenal yesterday morning (Singapore time) - has taught us nothing, beyond the obvious fact that Twitter can be a festering mound of ignorance and denial.
Before that, the Reds were swaggering towards one of the most uplifting title triumphs in English football history.
Today, they are the "Keystone Klopps", the nearly men, a fading force and not a patch on those winning machines from Manchester City.
Only Pep Guardiola's veterans display the true mark of champions, apparently, a point that the club literally made by classily tweeting "100" moments after Liverpool lost 2-1 at Arsenal.
The tweet was hastily deleted, but the point about points had been tactlessly made nonetheless. You see, the Reds can only reach the shabby tally of 99 with two games remaining.
City's record-breaking haul of 100 remains intact, imperious, untouchable and the surest sign of what makes a proper champion.
Honestly, even by the lowly standards of social media tribalism and the insatiable demand for click-bait, the attempts to dress up Liverpool's defeat as something more than a daft result are as feeble as they are redundant.
For the purposes of objectivity - a quaint commodity in the current, polarised climate - the Reds' 2-1 loss offers a chance to recap the blindingly obvious.
Champions must bolster their ranks. Even the greatest teams are refreshed. A Zoom class on workplace management really isn't required for this one.
Without Jordan Henderson, Liverpool lacked dynamism in midfield. Up front, substitute Takumi Minamino proved again that he's unlikely to trouble the starting XI any time soon.
Naby Keita came on and flickered and buzzed like a dying torch, illuminating occasionally but otherwise reinforcing the suspicion that he may not be Champions League-winning material next season.
All of this was known before the Arsenal defeat. The unknowns caused the bizarre result.
It is unknown and unheard of for the Reds to manufacture 24 shots on goal and score just once. Similarly, when was the last time an opponent fashioned just three attempts at a Liverpool goal and scored twice?
Freakish errors of judgment created Arsenal's freakish goals.
Alisson passed the Gunners' second goal to them and Virgil van Dijk arguably picked the perfect venue to pull off the best David Luiz impression of the season.
His back-pass gifted Arsenal an equaliser and triggered mass hysteria online. But, in reality, his blunder was in keeping with a surreal season that fell into a Covid-19 kaleidoscope of weirdness ages ago.
The only normal response was to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, remember that Liverpool won the title with seven games to go and move on.
But everything is abnormal now. Irrational behaviour reigns, particularly online.
If it's not red-faced folks screaming about masks somehow suppressing human rights, it's bare-faced liars raging about the Reds not being the one true god of English football.
Since Project Restart began, Liverpool's form has undoubtedly dipped. Against Burnley and Arsenal, they dropped points from winning positions - the first time that has happened all season.
Such a statistic does not turn them into puff pastry, nor does it confirm that they are a pale imitation of the Uefa-beating artists of the Etihad.
They are, as Klopp pointed out, human. They are also consistent with history.
In both 1983 and 1988, the Reds won the title with time to spare. Standards dropped soon after. In fact, in 1983, Liverpool picked up just two points from their final seven games (and didn't play inside an empty Anfield either).
And, to demonstrate that even experienced dynasties are not immune to a dip in intensity, Sir Alex Ferguson's last Manchester United game in May 2013 made history for the wrong reasons.
As a fitting tribute to their departing manager, the champions threw away a 5-2 lead at West Bromwich Albion. The game ended 5-5. No one particularly cared then.
No one should care now.
And yet, the pressing need to pick faults in a side that has given so much joy is more depressing than anything on show at the Emirates.
Of all the things to get angry about right now, of all the issues to get the blood pumping, Liverpool's "failure" to reach 100 points really isn't one of them.
Jobs are being lost, livelihoods are at risk and Covid-19 shows no sign of relenting, particularly in the country playing ghostly games behind closed doors. The Reds have mostly been bright sparks in a gloomy trudge through coronavirus-infected misery.
Their trophy doesn't come with an asterisk. They are the asterisk. They have gone above and beyond, making the best of the worst situation in our lifetime.
If only their critics could do the same.