As well as being a mad Red, I follow Rugby League. The slogan for Rugby League in England at the minute is ‘Every Minute Matters’, as a new playing system has been introduced to ensure every game is a huge one.
This slogan had me thinking about the opening day and the first few games of the season. Often teams get a free pass early doors, the consensus being that points can afford to be dropped early doors as teams can magic up form later on in the competition.
I won’t be alone in finding this week tough. Waiting for the next game always seems an eternity, even more so after a win like that. The Reds were superb on Sunday. They ran, they attacked and they entertained. There were defensive frailties there, but with Loris Karius, Joel Matip and James Milner to come in, it is not a crisis defensively yet.
Through our work in the market, Klopp has been left with an impressive looking attack and many options at the back to find the right combination. Elsewhere, Spurs dropped points, City and Chelsea scraped wins, United beat a poor Bournemouth side and Arsenal couldn’t live with Jurgen’s running Reds.
There’s often a general consensus that the first few fixtures aren’t too important and that as long as you can get some form together around Christmas time, you’ll be fine. This is a mindset Liverpool can’t and hopefully wont adopt. In recent years, we’ve seen the effects of both a great start and an inconsistent start. In recent years, in which the Reds have missed out on Champions League football, every single one has been plagued with an inconsistent start.
At the beginning of last year under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool won just 3 from 8 league games and finished 8th. Jurgen Klopp was tasked with playing catch-up on the bigger teams the minute he came in. With runs to the final in the League Cup and the Europa League, this proved too much for Klopp to pull off with a limited squad. The Reds were often relying on other results, with theories of us getting in that top 4 always starting with ‘If X lose to Y and we win our next 5’ and so on and so on.
The season earlier after the Suarez sale, the Reds won just 4 of their first 12 league games. The club were clearly still reeling from an uninspiring summer and the manager was under immense pressure. Towards the back end of the season, the Reds produced a 13 game unbeaten run in the league. However, due to the start they had, any defeat would be massive. A 2-1 loss to Manchester United proved to be the blueprint for the killing of top 4 hopes, as Liverpool whimpered out to a poor finish.
A final example I’ll use is 2009/10, the final year of Rafael Benitez’s reign. I could use Brendan’s first year or Kenny’s year, but in this year we had a far better squad and really emphasises the point even more. Despite being able to field Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, the Reds only managed to win 6 of their first 13 league games.
Even a squad containing so much quality couldn’t recover from this slow start and simply turn on form like it’s a switch. It’s becoming pretty clear that a poor start kills any momentum and belief and puts far too much pressure on the results at the end of the season.
In contrast to this, in the 2 years we’ve had our recent title challenges, we’ve started like a house on fire. It’s typical Liverpool that I’m doing an article looking at the differences in starts between finishing 6th, 7th and 8th and 2nd. It seems to be one or the other these days. The Reds were a joy to watch in 2013/14, scoring goals, conceding goals and running riot everywhere they went. Sunday had a feel of 2013/14 about it, with a poor back four being bailed out by electric attacking play.
That campaign was littered with a belief that propelled the playing squad to levels they weren’t aware they could reach. This all started with the belief generated from a good start from the Reds. Including three back-to-back 1-0 wins, Liverpool won 10 out of their first 16 games, losing just 2, taking them up to Christmas time still in the mix of title glory.
2008/09 had the feel of years under Rafael Benitez finally coming together. Torres, Gerrard, Benayoun and Kuyt up top proved too much for most teams and with a world class defence, it looked as if it was the Reds’ year. Liverpool won 10 of their first 13 league games, setting the pace for most of the year and were top at Christmas. Despite a dip in form after Rafa’s infamous “facts” outburst during the press conference in January 2009, an exceptional start from the Reds meant Liverpool could contend the title right through till May.
In recent history at least, solid starts have given the Reds a platform to push on. Anfield is the hardest place in England to go for the opposition when the locals inside believe that the team in Red can achieve something. Simultaneously, a poor start adds pressure to every subsequent game.
Anfield is the hardest place to play for the team in red if you need a win; and the locals are restless. A goal crazy game at Arsenal has given us our first win of the season, it’s so important now that, despite a tough fixture list away from home, we can build on this. Every minute matters. Roll on Saturday!
Written by Jack Mitchell (@JackMitchell_5)