Nearly two weeks on from Liverpool’s impressive 2-1 victory over Chelsea, and a 5-1 slaughtering of Hull City; the message is still clear.
Liverpool are title contenders.
Many would have laughed if you had said that before the season, and in fact ; many did. However, Jürgen Klopp’s men are making it evident; it is no laughing matter!
Team for the big occasion:
After 5 games, Liverpool have had arguably the toughest start to a Premier League campaign in many years. Away trips to Arsenal, Tottenham , and Chelsea , as well as a home match, where they welcomed the champions, Leicester. The other game was an away trip to Burnley, not exactly a tough fixture in comparison to the other four. However, this was the only game the Reds haven’t picked up any points in.
Any manager would frown upon having four away matches in the opening five games, this was simply due to the fact that the new main stand at Anfield had not quite reached completion. The away match at Burnley two games in, was supposed to be at home, but they had to reverse the fixture with when Liverpool were supposed to face The Clarets at Turf Moor, which will now be played at Anfield.
Many saw Liverpool’s opener at the Emirates to be a tough encounter. This was not exactly the case though. Arsenal did go 1-0 up, thanks to Theo Walcott, a tidy finish slotted into the bottom left corner. On the stroke of half time, the tides turned. A 30 yard free kick beckoned the call of Philippe Coutinho; the Brazilian maestro produced a free kick of the highest magnitude. A swirling effort , dispatched in the top left corner , check mate; for Cech, who leapt helplessly.
Just 4 minutes into the second half, it was Liverpool who struck again. Brilliant build play saw Georginio Wijnaldum feed a perfectly weighted ball to Adam Lallana who was on hand to tuck the ball under the legs of Cech. Klopp’s men then really turned on the style, two goals in quick succession made it 4-1 . The fourth and final goal was a goal of the highest calibre, new man Sadio Mané ran with the ball down the line and used his electrifying pace. Mané dashed down the line, where he was greeted by Arsenal duo, Rob Holding and Nacho Monreal. The winger was sandwiched between the two on the edge of the box, however he cut threw them, like a knife through butter. A heel chop left the defensive pairing dazzled and bewildered, unable to tame the animal that sent Arsenal’s chances of survival into extinction. 4-1 down in the 62nd minute; flashbacks of 5-1 at Anfield in February 2014 flooded back.
Liverpool then bettered this in the games to follow. A tricky away visit to White Hart Lane saw Klopp’s side pick up a respectable point. Many could argue they were unlucky to not come home with all three points as they went 2-0 up, however, the goal scored by Mané was ruled offside.
Up Next ;Leicester, the first team to play the Reds at Anfield for the new season, and also the first time a game had been played with the new main stand. The champions looked a shadow of their former selves of last season, as the reds ran the Foxes ragged, inflicting a colossal 4-1 defeat on Claudio Ranieri’s men. Liverpool struck four goals past the top two sides from last season (Leicester, Arsenal) and were starting to show just what they are capable of. Jürgen Klopp has formed a potent attacking force, with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Adam Lallana carrying the ball forward at speed, defences have something to worry about, sending shock-waves as they travel without remorse.
The next victims to face the deadly Reds; Chelsea. A Friday evening game, played in the dark;but lit up by the quality of the Liverpool performance. During his first month in charge last year, Klopp was successful on this ground as they were 3-1 victors at Stamford Bridge, thanks to a Phillipe Coutinho brace. The scoring was opened through the most unlikely of sources, Dejan Lovren. A free kick whipped into the back post, found Lovren, who was on hand to poke the ball into the roof of the net, a striker- esque finish.
The moment of the match was to follow however. As Gary Cahill cleared his lines in defence, the ball trickled along the floor to the Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson. 30 yards from goal, with absolutely no right to shoot, he did just that. A thunderbolt! The ball dipped in the top right corner, out of the reach of 6 foot 5” Thibaut Courtois. It couldn’t have been any more out of reach for the Chelsea shot stopper.
All these performances had a certain familiarity to them; Klopp’s first season in charge.
Chelsea 1-3 Liverpool , Manchester City 1-4 Liverpool, Southampton 1- 6 Liverpool, Liverpool 4-0 Everton, Liverpool 3-0 Manchester City, Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United.
Klopp discovered a way to defeat the very best, Liverpool were running riot away from home, causing destruction. They became the team for the big occasion, which has already been shown this season. This is imperative for challenging for the league, as they are the teams you need to stop from beating you to the league, so by stopping them from gaining points on you; you are increasing your chances massively.
Liverpool- The work horses of the league. The Reds have covered more distance on the pitch this season than any other side. Klopp has installed a style of play that focuses on relentless pressure and constant determination to win the ball back. When watching the Reds in the first 20/25 minutes of every game, they are unstoppable. Bursting with energy, they charge at the defence of the opposition, allowing them no time to think, and therefore make mistakes. This tactic has proven successful so many times already this season as with the quality that Liverpool have in attack, they can cripple sides in the first half. They showcased this against Hull at the weekend, as they wrapped up the game in the first 30 minutes. This method is imperative in Liverpool’s title credentials, as not that many other teams can do it to the standard that Klopp has developed.
The man himself. Jürgen Klopp, is a huge reason as to why Liverpool has every right to go on and win the league. The way in which he acts with his team, his ingenious tactics, his passion, all convey onto the pitch when Liverpool perform. He is unique. He adds something which the Anfield faithful have missed for a very long time; something different. Yes, Liverpool has had some terrific managers over the years, for example, Rafael Benitez, Gerard Houllier, Brendan Rodgers, but are any of them similar to Klopp in any way?
He is completely different. He brings the crowd to life, he acts as if he is an avid supporter, and his love for the game, is infectious. The way he goes around hugging his team after the games, bringing everyone together at the end of the match in a line to salute the fans, the things he says in his interviews; it truly shows how special he is. It also exemplifies how lucky Liverpool are to have him, a world class manager like Klopp could manage any team in Europe, he is that good. He has come with a master-plan to Anfield, and it sure is coming together nicely.
As mentioned when talking about Klopp, a togetherness feeling has been formed, which makes the players feel connected, everyone feels equal. There is no star man running the show, it is all about teamwork and doing what’s best for the whole side. A striking comparison is at Manchester United. The United fans were jumping for joy in the transfer window, couldn’t believe their luck! £90 million splashed out on Paul Pogba, a huge name in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan! The names just kept on coming! But, after three straight defeats in a row, with Manchester City, Feyenoord, and Watford beating them, the message was clear.
You can’t buy team spirit.
One team who know all about this, Leicester City.
Premier league champions of last season, how much did they spend on their title winning side?
The same price Manchester City paid for Raheem Sterling. With Man City spending £400 million in total on their side that featured last season, Manchester United spending £391 million, and Chelsea spending £283 million, there was something that was priceless about the Foxes’ title win.
Looking at Manchester United this season, something isn’t right. An array of people tipped the Red Devils for Premier League glory this year, but I don’t think that will be the case.
There is no communication in the United side, no passion, and no determination. You can’t just throw a team of superstars together and hope it all pans out well. Some of the player’s ego’s in the side override what is most important; playing as a team.
Liverpool have had the’ Klopp Effect’ in full swing ever since he arrived last October, which has seen many minor changes create a colossal difference. They possess a team spirit; it’s not about who gets the goals, or who plays the best. Klopp has got them to believe that they should play for each other. This sort of mentality can get you a long way, just ask Leicester.
No European Football:
The fact that they don’t have any European football to get in the way of focusing on the league, and causing fatigue is massive; as we saw in the 2013/14 season.
The season when Liverpool last made a title challenge, was of course, the infamous 2013/14 season where they came 2nd. This was the season they didn’t have any European football. That season Liverpool were mesmerizingly good, tearing side’s apart week in week out. A huge part of that was down to not having any football midweek to slow them down in their bid for the league. The fact that all of the other title contenders have European football is something which is Jürgen Klopp will be rubbing his hands with delight about.
The purchase of Sadio Mané from Southampton in the summer was a transfer that some were sceptical about, mainly due to the fee potentially rising to £36 million, from around £30 million. Has he been worth it? The stats speak for themselves in this instance. With 6 games played so far in all competitions ( Premier League + EFL Cup) the Senegalese winger has contributed an impressive 3 goals and 3 assists. He has been the shining light in the Reds’ deadly attack. Not only is Mané leading the charge forwards, there is Philippe Coutinho, who has shown on numerous occasions how special he is, with 30 yard thunderbolts becoming habitual for the Brazilian magician. His samba team-mate, Roberto Firmino, also leads the line alongside him.
After an impressive first season, Firmino has continued from where he left off last year, scoring and also assisting plenty. A player who has improved drastically since Klopp arrived has also been on brilliant form; Adam Lallana. After a shaky first couple of seasons, Lallana has well and truly made his mark in this Liverpool side. Like Mané, Lallana has 3 goals and assists in 6 matches. Upfront, there is of course Daniel Sturridge who is always a threat, so long as he is match-fit, as he looks to be back to his best, and Divock Origi being on hand if needed, Liverpool have formed a formidable attack, which has left many teams destroyed at the end of the 90 minutes, having put 4 goals past Arsenal, and Leicester, not to mention 5 past Hull.
Where it could go wrong:
There are a couple of issues which could hold Klopp’s men from going all the way.
Liverpool are known for not having the strongest defence, the Reds do score plenty, but also concede plenty. The 2013/14 season when they were inches away from winning the league, and lost out to Manchester City, was mainly down to defensive issues. In that season, they scored over 100 goals, as they had the electrifying attack of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, formerly known as ‘ SAS’ ( Suarez and Sturridge) , however, the amount of times they conceded held them back from success.The pivotal match in that season was against Crystal Palace, when the Reds were 3-0 up with 10 minutes to go, when they then remarkably conceded 3 goals which saw the match end 3-3, and effectively ended their title bid with just one game to go.
The team from that season is different now, however the defensive issues have still remained ever present to this day. The most recent illustration of this, being Alberto Moreno. He cost Liverpool numerous points last season, more notably in the Europa League final which saw his former side; Sevilla, win the cup. He was doing the same this season again, giving the ball away, having bad positioning, making rash tackles, which has seen him lose his place in the side to James Milner, who is usually a centre midfielder- that tells you something.
Their defending has looked much better since he was dropped, but, this is something that certainly needs addressing more if they are to go all the way.
Team for the small occasion?
As mentioned earlier, Liverpool loves games against the big sides! They seem to perform when facing the ultimate forces, but not so much against the lesser sides in the league. Like defending, this has been an issue for a while now, illustrated last season by defeats to Swansea, Watford, Crystal Palace, and Newcastle. This has been proven to be evident already this season, as the only defeat they have had is against Burnley. If they are to go on to big things, this is an issue that needs serious attention. It is brilliant to beat the big sides, but it’s equally important to beat the smaller sides, all the points add up along the way, it’s just as crucial to defeat Manchester United, as it is to defeat Bournemouth. You need to be able to have strong performances no matter who you face.
Perhaps, the biggest overriding factor of all. Consistency.
Something Liverpool cannot buy. They will face a team like Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea , or Arsenal and blow them out of the water. They have already shown that this is true this season. They did it last year too, beating Manchester City 4-1. The trouble is, the game before the City rout, they lost 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace.
With Liverpool, you don’t know what team is going to turn up. They can either play outstandingly, or woefully, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground! Another example, they smashed Southampton 6-1 away from home in the Capital One cup last season, which got everyone talking about how good they are. The next game, was as 2-0 defeat to Newcastle, who were relegated that season. Liverpool have to stop doing this, they almost seem to pick and choose when they want to turn up and perform. To win the league, they need to perform week in week out no matter who the opposition. Beating Arsenal 4-3, next game a 2-0 defeat to Burnley, beat Everton 4-0 last season, two games later 3-1 defeat to Swansea.
If Liverpool are serious about this title, these problems need to be eradicated.
I strongly believe that they can win the league. When I made my premier league predictions before the season, I placed them in second place, and I do think they can even make it to the top. Without a doubt they will be in the running, whether or not they will win, is a different matter. If they patch up the issues mentioned above, they have every right to. The Reds are undoubtedly playing the most exciting football in the country at the moment, the relentless attacking play is a joy to watch. If they start to get some consistency going, and are able to knock Manchester City off their perch, things will start to look promising.
Liverpool are on the rise, make no mistake about it.