Sanjay Nair explains how Liverpool have turned their season around after being written off a couple weeks ago.
It wasn’t long ago that Liverpool were supposed to be a team in crisis. Consecutive draws against Newcastle and Manchester United highlighted the failure of a much-hyped attack’s inability to break down teams – a distinct feature of the last 2 seasons.
Adding to that was the utterly shambolic 4-1 defeat to Tottenham which resulted in unprecedented outrage against our defence – directed particularly towards Dejan Lovren. The 7-0 hammering of Maribor away from home was the only bright spot in the midst of all that and even then, the hardcore critics put that result down more to Maribor’s sheer lack of quality than our dominance.
Fast forward to the end of the past weekend’s game and everyone is purring about our performances at both ends of the pitch. The belief is back amongst the fans with goals pouring in at will and clean sheets, particularly at Anfield, a regularity. So what has actually changed over the past month or so?
Patient approach to proceedings
Everyone knows how electrifying and dangerous Liverpool are moving forward, especially on the break. Teams would counter that by playing deep inside their own half and rely on hitting Liverpool on the counter. Liverpool could be seen looking impatient and jittery if they did not get that early goal.
However, in the past 4 games, the earliest an opening goal came was in the 21st minute (against West Ham). We seem to have added this new and highly effective ‘patient’ side to our arsenal and it is yielding huge rewards. In fact, 9 out of the last 14 goals scored have been in the 2nd half, which amounts to a very impressive 64%. Even a couple of missed penalties have not deterred us in our efforts to maintain long periods of domination.
Mo Salah’s hot streak
A player who probably had more sceptics than believers when he signed for £36.7 million, Mo Salah started well but was found wanting in his finishing. Life at Liverpool for Salah began with the image of a pacy winger who could out-run anyone in the league without possessing the consistent end result.
However, Liverpool’s turnaround in fortunes can be attributed largely to the improvement in Salah’s conversion rate. His movement in and around the box and finishing have ensured the term ‘clinical finisher’ has been added to his repertoire, his instinct to latch onto Coutinho’s through ball and finish calmly past Forster against Southampton the best example of this.
The Fab-3 have quickly become the ‘Fantastic-4’ and are thrilling football lovers the world over – Liverpool fans or not.
A solid defence always exudes confidence for the rest of the team. Our defensive stability over the past games is one of the main reasons why our patient build-up is bearing fruit. The front-line is under less pressure to deliver the goods very early in the game knowing that their ‘mates at the back’ will take care of things.
Incidentally, Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno, who have been criticised a fair bit as well in the past, have been a picture of confidence and the fact that we have conceded just one goal in the last 4 games is heartwarming. Anfield is once again being built into a fortress and one can only hope that it stays that way for a long time coming, especially with Chelsea on the horizon.
Overall, a good time for Liverpool and with an important away game against Sevilla in the Champions League, Liverpool fans will be hoping that the team continues on a good run and hopefully seal qualification from the group stages.