18 games unbeaten- the club’s longest streak without tasting defeat in over a decade, into the last sixteen of the Champions League and emphatically ending Manchester City’s domestic dominance by halting their 30 game unbeaten run in supreme fashion- it’s a good time to be a Reds supporter.
Not so long ago, the talk of the town was that Liverpool were amidst a crisis, having been on the receiving end of two humbling humiliations at the hands of Man City and Tottenham Hotspur.
The feel-good factor is back at Anfield, though, with brighter days seemingly on the horizon.
Having said that, there has been a dark cloud hanging over Anfield, as The ‘Fab Four’ lost arguably its star member, though, the now thunderous three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah were able to fill the void of Coutinho effectively.
Beating the champions-elect without the samba star and the world’s most expensive defender, Virgil van Dijk, is no walk in the park and is testament to the Reds’ ruthlessness .
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side are often the team to thrive in a baptism of fire , play how no other side would dare to, and defy the odds. A Sunday night under the lights at Anfield against the league leaders had all the makings of a fine contest.
Pep Guardiola’s men were put to the sword by Liverpool; beaten at their own game.
The Reds simply did what no other side imagined was possible.
Championship duo Wolves and Bristol City are the only other sides to give their all in order to thwart the Citizens, but Klopp’s troops were the ones who rallied together to execute the masterplan to overthrow Guardiola’s gladiators.
Relentless gegenpressing forced City into committing numerous errors, which they ordinarily wouldn’t make. ‘ The invincibles’ were being made to look anything but that, as Mohamed Salah slammed home from distance to make it 4-1 in the 68th minute. Aside from a lapse in concentration as proceedings drew to a close, this was a performance of the highest calibre from Liverpool.
Yet there are still many who doubt both Klopp as a manager and Liverpool as a team.
The defence is still an issue, yes, but it has certainly improved and the acquisition of Van Dijk exemplifies the problem has been recognised and is well on its way to a state of solidity.
People will point to games that the Reds have failed to win, such as home games to West Brom, Burnley and Everton, where they dominated for the majority but failed to find a breakthrough. This, however, has not defined Liverpool’s season and since the 4-1 debacle against Tottenham in October, Klopp’s men have turned a corner.
This was a defining moment.
At times, the personnel that Liverpool operate with have been criticised. Roberto Firmino is allegedly not a striker who will net 20 goals a season, despite the fact he currently has 17 to his name and we’re only in January.
The Brazilian contributes so much more to the team than what meets the eye, but it is merely acknowledged and his efforts go unnoticed for the most part. Firmino is a work-horse, a key player who drives the Liverpool press and contributes his fair share of goals too. It is a rare occurrence to even hear the former Hoffenheim man’s name mentioned when discussing the best forwards in the league.
Scorer of Liverpool’s first goal on Sunday, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain is another player who has been significantly overlooked; even before he first put on the famous Red shirt. His £35 million fee was laughed at and ridiculed, though, it seems unlikely that these doubts still remain. Admittedly, Chamberlain took perhaps a little longer than expected to hit the ground running, but now it seems as if he’s destined for greatness.
If you cast your minds back to this time last year, that’s enough in itself to demonstrate how far this Liverpool side has come in such a short space of time.
The Reds were eliminated from both the FA Cup and EFL Cup by Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton respectively , beaten at Anfield by Swansea City for the first time ever, and ended January without victory, with the exception of an unimpressive third round FA Cup replay win at League Two Plymouth Argyle.
There have been no New Year woes this campaign, though, as Liverpool have upped the ante and taken no prisoners. The shackles have been removed and there is no holding back the rampant Reds now.
Part of the reason for the resurgence this year is due to the improved squad depth that Klopp has at his disposal. Each signing since last year has added undoubted quality and a new dimension to the side. Gone are the days of looking aimlessly to the bench in the slight hope that they would bring about a change in fortunes.
Nobody could have possibility imagined that Salah would be such an unprecedented success, or even that Andrew Robertson would enjoy such a sharp rise to prominence. The flying Scotsman has enjoyed a dazzling start to life in L4 in recent weeks; his tenacious attitude certainly fits the bill with Klopp.
The strength in depth in this Liverpool side is as impressive as any in the past decade.
The 2013/14 campaign was the closest the side has come to reaching the holy grail of English football in recent years, as Brendan Rodgers’ men fought to the hilt, only to fall at the final hurdle. However, this current side have one more point now than the breathtaking ‘SAS’ infused side had at the same stage after 23 matches played.
Not only does the current points tally beat 2013/14, but 47 points is also the second highest total the Reds have possessed in the past ten seasons and is just shy of the best figure reached in the 2008/09 campaign(48).
Of course, there are differences between the sides in year’s gone by. Roberto Firmino is no Luis Suarez and no midfielder will ever live up to the heights that Steven Gerrard reached, but a new era is being witnessed; an era filled with great expectations but endless possibilities.
There have been various misconceptions about this Liverpool side, but the biggest of all has been people’s inability to recognise the quality that runs deep within this team.
Klopp’s Anfield tenure has been a work in progress, however, the job was never going to be a quick fix. His authority and decision- making has been disputed on various occasions, but the German who still firmly holds his Liverpool blueprint plan may be on the cusp of greatness.