Supporting this Liverpool team is a real joy at the moment. After an incredible December, the mighty Reds sit at the top of the table. A healthy 7 point lead over nearest rivals City. If that kind of lead had been offered to any Liverpool fan a month ago, every fan would have bitten your hand off. Yet here we are.
It seems harsh that after such a tremendous end to a memorable year another serious test awaits this Thursday. A “winner takes all” feel providing the backdrop to an intriguing duel awaiting at the Etihad.
Another test of our title credentials. But as Klopp’s Liverpool team gets increasingly better defensively, there is no need for fear. Since the aberration that was the 5-0 defeat to City, we’ve beaten them thrice and drawn against them this season. A healthy respect for the opposition? Absolutely. Fear? Hell no. If there’s a team that can beat this Man City side it’s Liverpool.
It’s clear that many a fan is reluctant to get carried away with our epic start to the season. After all, there are still many games to be played, many points to be fought for. Things can change quickly in football.
But there is one constant under Klopp this past year – his Liverpool team gets better and better. Nothing has been won yet, but there is every possibility that this team can finally land the league title we’ve all been waiting for.
Has there been a Liverpool team with such character, fortitude and sheer toughness (physically and mentally) in the Premier League era? Right now I would say no, with only Rafa’s class of 2008-09 coming anywhere close.
One of the biggest impediments to Rafa’s finest team was the number of draws. One of the reasons Rafa failed to win the title was because his team of 08-09 drew 12 games. Last season, 11 drawn games cost us one point too many, to even remotely keep the pace with Guardiola’s record breakers.
The biggest challenge when competing for the title is maintaining consistency and going into every game expecting to, and being confident of, winning the game. This team has so far shown the ruthless streak to deal with that pressure. 17 wins from 20 in the league and Champions League knockout qualification is a testament to this.
Quality and conviction
From beating Napoli 1-0 to progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League. This was followed by a comfortable 3-1 victory over the bus parking, banana-skin that personifies all Mourinho’s teams. Those two fixtures were sandwiched between impressive away wins over Bournemouth and Wolves. Only to then be surpassed by subsequent thumpings of Newcastle and Arsenal at home.
For all their faults, Arsenal are one of the few teams in the league that have the attacking quality to hurt us. After going behind, whereas past Liverpool’s teams may have crumbled mentally, Klopp’s boys went on to blast five goals unanswered past them.
Overcoming a difficult start, the boys kept their focus (not to be distracted by the looming Man City game), adapted tactically and went for the jugular. Full conviction in one another and the team’s collective qualities.
While the defence has taken all the plaudits so far this season, the fact that our entire front 3 registered on the scoresheet against the Gunners was telling. The attack is now starting to flow and peak at just the right time.
More to come?
With Shaqiri and Fabinho chipping in with goals, the midfield is now getting in on the act and Naby Keita is yet to get fully started. This squad has the quality, personality and strength in depth (injuries permitting) to go all the way.
Klopp has instilled the right mentality, brought in the right calibre players and it is now paying dividends. More importantly, he has filled the team with the right blend of players to alternate between styles; either overwhelming the opponent with attacking brilliance or grinding them down in a war of attrition, before finishing them off as they tire.
Our more measured approach to games should help us remain physically strong in this season’s run-in, whereas past seasons have seen us finish running on empty.
There’s a variety to this side that we’ve simply not seen before, the way Klopp’s team can overwhelm the opponent and pummel them into submission. On their day, they are unplayable and that seems the case more often than not, at the moment.
The pressure is all on City now and we need to use that to our advantage. Guardiola’s team are very beatable and have a number of vulnerabilities. Should we get at least a point at the Etihad, we’re in a very good place. It would take some doing to overhaul us.
And whilst Thursday won’t determine the outcome of the title per se, it gives us the opportunity to continue what we did against Arsenal. To make a statement that we mean business and are here to stay.
Make no mistake, this team is the real deal. It feels like we are watching the future champions of England. Perhaps more pertinent, the evidence of the past 14 months suggests current performance is sustainable.
Which can mean only one thing…