Jack Hallows explains how Liverpool, against the odds, are proving their title credentials and becoming one of the Premier League top dogs once more.
When Liverpool’s fixture list for the season was released, I was honestly with hit a lot of panic and a sense of frustration. I had belief in our team, in Klopp, in our new transfers who had all performed reasonably well in pre-season but come on, on paper, our start was just awful. Away trips to Arsenal and Spurs in the first three followed by a visit from the reigning champions and a trip to Stamford Bridge? No thanks! Add in the fact we’d have to play Manchester United and our bogey sides Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion all within the first 10 fixtures and you had a recipe for disaster. 11 games – and one recent hammering of Watford – later I can sit here happily and say, that went very well then didn’t it?
Past curses mean nothing to Jurgen Klopp
We’re a superstitious lot, us football fans, aren’t we? Good thing then that Jurgen Klopp just isn’t – except when it comes to penalties, watch him next time, he always looks away. A visit to the Emirates – smashed it dramatically. A trip to Liberty Stadium – three points thanks. A visit from Liverpool’s nemesis Tony Pulis followed by a trip to our horror show ground Selhurst Park – not a problem. A visit from the reigning champions – that all you’ve got? Even Klopp’s own hoodoo of Watford – his worst defeat last season, granted it was at Vicarage Road not Anfield – was shattered most recently in a 6-1 hammering of their opponents.
One by one Liverpool’s past dramas have been put to bed for the mean time as Klopp looks to improve on each and every one of our disappointing records with every week that goes by. The Reds have so far shrugged off their curse of letting two-goal leads slip, made amends for recent dire showings against the likes of Palace, Watford, Swansea and West Brom and have shown hardened nerves and a winning mentality week in, week out.
Breaking down the doors
It was a supposedly ‘well documented’ fact coming into this season that the Reds struggle against a low block. That Jurgen Klopp’s style of play doesn’t work when teams don’t come at the Reds and that our finishing alone wasn’t good enough to win games of this manner. Okay, so we went some way to proving this correct against Burnley but since then that nonsense has been disproven time and again. Hull gave it a go and shipped three in the opening 30 minutes, West Brom tried it and conceded two in that time while Crystal Palace seemed to want to give it a go but failed miserably. Even Watford recently tried it to a lesser extent playing five at the back and look how that ended for them. The Reds have now proven that it doesn’t matter how you try and defend our tactics, we’ll find a way through and someone will grab a goal. Klopp doesn’t care who it is or how they do it, all that matters is the three points.
However – and I’m expecting a few to probably disagree with me here – something just as impressive as our goal record in these fixtures has been the way we’ve known when not to over commit. Against United at Anfield after the last international break, there were echoes of the last time the two sides had met in the League in January. United held on, the Reds missed their chances and ultimately, LVG’s side walked away with three points. This time, however, while the Reds threw everything they could at Mourinho’s 6-3-1 formation, they didn’t allow their visitors to hit them on the counter. Ibrahimovic was a frustrated and isolated figure up top and set pieces were cleared with minimal fuss. If we couldn’t have the three points then there was no way in hell United were having them.
The Big Boys
Lastly, we’re proving that we can still be considered one of the big boys of English Football. Namely by beating the others. The Reds have beaten Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester and outplayed both United and Spurs despite the result on both occasions being draws. This has seen the Reds take 11 points from a possible 15 so far against the supposed giants of English football – we’re yet to play City – and with a goal difference of +6 it’s hard to argue that we’ve not been the better side across each fixture. What’s even more impressive is that last season across these exact five fixtures we scored just five goals but have netted 11 times across them this season, scoring four in one game on more than one occasion.
The Reds are showing that it doesn’t matter who our opponent is. We can beat them and if we play as we know we can, we will. It doesn’t matter who the other team are, how much their starting XI cost, their manager’s reputation or whether we’re home or away. We can beat these teams and we’re proving it by doing just that. Winning. The minnows are being swept aside and so are the big boys and now, at the top of the table as it stands, it’s time for the Reds to crack on and hit that next step.