Following Liverpool’s disappointing & widely criticised 0-0 draw against Manchester United at Anfield, Liverpool’s unbeaten run stretched to 7 games in all competitions; the Reds’ last defeat was against Burnley on August 20. At the weekend, Liverpool stretched that to 8 after beating West Brom 2-1.
Whilst I’m not a believer this early on in the Premier League, this, in my view, is a sign of things to come. At the start of the season, we were labelled as real contenders for top 4 after the opening day thriller against Arsenal. However, we were ridiculed by many rival fans, pundits & journalists alike after we were defeated 2-0 by a Burnley side that appeared to be emphasising on defence. Many said we would not be able to challenge for top 4 or even the title, if we could not find a way to win against the so called “smaller teams”. Worst of all, some even said that our momentum may not be a long-term proposition.
Liverpudlians were then left grimacing at the run of fixtures ahead that included Tottenham (who had challenged for the title the previous season), Leicester, the reigning champions, Chelsea, Hull, Swansea, Manchester United and West Brom. We had been tipped to have a real venture in the games against the ‘big sides’, and struggle against the likes of Swansea and Hull, labelled the smaller sides.
However, almost two months later, the critics who laid into the Reds earlier have been exhorted into eating their words; the seven games in the Barclays Premier League have yielded an impressive 17 points out of 21 – progress in the EFL Cup has also been made; therefore stretching Liverpool’s unbeaten run to 8 in all competitions.
This long-run spell of momentum may seem irrelevant at first, so early on in the season – but this would be the springboard for a fantastic run of form.
Whilst Liverpool have done their job in winning all but three games in the league so far this season, they’ve also been given a favour by their rivals, fighting for the title & Champions League football. Manchester City’s dropped points against Everton, Spurs and Southampton drawing away to West Brom gave Liverpool the opportunity to climb into joint-top in the Premier League.
Unfortunately, the pressure of beating their arch-rivals, Manchester United, seemed to buckle on Klopp’s men, who drew, and instead lay in fourth place. Forth place is definitely, by no means “bad” at all – in fact, it’s met Liverpool fans’ expectations of football in Europe’s elite again for the first time since 2014. Liverpool currently lie third in the leg on goal difference.
For those who think I’m a typical Liverpool fan, rambling on about hopes & expectations as usual, all you need to do is to take a look at the longevity of the club’s history when the differing squad were put in this position.
The first example I’m going to use is going back to the 2005/2006 season, in which Liverpool had started the season badly. In fact, halfway through October, Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool were lying mid-table. It seemed like another uneventful season, but a 2-0 victory against West Ham United in that same month was an unconvincing performance – Steven Gerrard in fact, in his biography, said:
It didn’t feel out of the ordinary. It was routine.
But, whatever followed was an incredible run of form; the class of ’06 were close to writing themselves in the record books of the club, but a 2-2 draw to Bolton ended the hope of making it a record ninth win on the bounce. In fact, Pepe Reina andLiverpool’s defence went a remarkable 8 games without conceding at home/on the road in the league. The side then went on to finish 3rd, which was a fantastic achievement considering the mediocrity that had masked the club’s magnitude & strength during Gerard Houllier’s reign. Previously, that saw everybody’s fears of coming to Anfield – the belief reaffirmed in the squad that those days were coming back. There was an identity & purpose in the football club again. This was summarised by another Gerrard quote:
I believed, that under Rafa, Liverpool were becoming a force again.
Now, it’s easy to say the only reason why Liverpool were winning then was because of their defensive acumen under Benitez. However, my next example with banish your point.
In the 2013/2014 season (Liverpool fans will remember fondly for its memories during the majority of the season, but not the end, obviously), Liverpool looked nothing more than a potential challenger for Champions League. Inconsistency had plagued some excellent results, which saw the force and unbelievable attacking quality come of age; it proved detrimental in the games we had to win. However, this all changed when we demolished Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield with a vintage attacking display in the first half, which yielded 4 goals in the first 20 minutes.
That was, arguably, the game in which the rest of the Premier League began to treat Liverpool with more respect. A string of excellent results then followed, as we went ten games unbeaten – giving us the belief to dream again, and for that first ever Premier League title. Even though, the end was very depressing, we still had the confidence from beating Arsenal in such an emphatic manner to win our next ten games – a club record that we’d been waiting for. Once you win twice or three times, you’re difficult to beat.
We’re in the same status as team as we were in 2013/2014 – you can’t compare Suarez, Sturridge & Sterling (when fit) to our current team, but we’re in the position where our attack is masking our suspect defending. The game at Crystal Palace in May 2014 showed how our defence eventually undermined our attacking impetus. We’ve been on an unbeaten run; and even though we haven’t won every single game so far this season, wins in our upcoming run (which is fairly good, considering the start we had) can prove vital to the backend of the season.
If we want to push for the title, we need to put together an extended winning run – just like the 2013/14 side did. The start is just as important as the end – struggling to win games now and winning games on the trot won’t help us; consistency is key if we want to achieve something respectable this season.
Can we do that with Klopp? Yes we can.
Written by @SteLindellLFC