Where are we now? A comparison between 13/14 & 16/17 before November international break

Liverpool’s wholly convincing 6-1 defeat of Watford at Anfield took them top of the Premier League for the first time under Jurgen Klopp, heading into the November international break.

But how does this compare to the class of 13/14 that went to finished 2nd in the Premier League, and nearly won the title for the first time since 1990?

Liverpool 2013/2014 – before the international break

Liverpool’s campaign had started off with 3 successive 1-0 victories against Stoke, Aston Villa & more famously, against David Moyes’ Manchester United, who then went on to become the laughing stock of the league that season.

The Reds then at the time, did suffer a slight stall in form, having been knocked out of the Capital One Cup to United a month later, and drawing away at Swansea as well as losing at home to Mauricio Pochettino’s Southampton at Anfield.

From then, form improved though – picking up wins against Sunderland & Palace respectively, and mauling West Brom 4-1, with a magical Luis Suarez hat-trick.

The run wasn’t without its disappointments, though – a disappointing 2-0 defeat to an Arsenal side who were then looking like serious title contenders at the Emirates was when many thought that we wouldn’t be able to get near the top 3.

The final game before the international break did offer some respite though, with a routine 4-0 victory against a Fulham side that went onto be relegated.

So, before November international break, Liverpool were 2nd in the table, behind leaders Arsenal. Even though we were only 2 points behind at that time – nobody gave us an opportunity to go on and do what we did, in fairness we looked ordinary at the back with the likes of Aly Cissoko!

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Liverpool’s 2016-2017 season – before the international break.

In June, when the fixture list for LFC was announced, many fans must have been grimacing at the fairly arduous beginning, which saw trips to Chelsea, Arsenal & Spurs, as well as home encounters against the reigning champions Leicester City & arch-rivals Manchester United.

The season started off with a dramatic encounter at Arsenal to get our pulses raising high – we eventually held on for the 4-3 even though the team tried their best to throw the points away.

Then, the game that underlined our defensive frailties finally arrived  – we surprisingly were outwitted 2-0 by Burnley 2-0; a game in which pundits, rival fans etc around the footballing world ridiculed us for having such high aspirations – our complacency was also brought into question. Yet those who made these remarks were made to eat their words.

LFC then travelled to White Hart Lane to take on a Spurs side that had impressed many – having finished 3rd last season. Many were tipping the hosts to take the three points, but we dominated the game from start to finish. If it wasn’t for Michel Vorm and some desperate finishing, you may argue the Reds did enough to take all three points away. Unfortunately we had to settle for a 1-1 draw going into the international break.

Things did slightly look up though after international fixtures – what proceeded was last season’s champions’ visit to a new-look Anfield, which had its miniature Main Stand upgraded, bringing the overall capacity to about 54,000. It was clear to see the atmosphere was turned up a notch for the game: the team responded to the task well by seamlessly disposing the Foxes 4-1 – making a mockery of their “title winners” label. This was when a lot of Liverpool supporters must have gotten their belief up in the side, that when the side were at its best, they could be devastating.

This claim was still laughed off by some though – but, we reinstated that claim in some style by deservedly beating favourites Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. It was a very professional away performance. The biggest memory out of them all was Jordan Henderson’s firecracker from outside the box that soared into the top right hand corner. Grujic enjoyed it!

The EFL Cup was up next for us – it was a comfortable win away at Championship outfit Derby County. Nice to see Ragnar get his first goal for the club.

After facing one of the hardest spells in our early season run-in, we were back to Anfield to face Hull City; with one of our best home performances of the season. It could be argued that Elmohamady’s first-half red card gave us more mometum to score goals, but anyway, it could have been 7-8 for the way we played throughout. It was a wholly convincing performance – the first of many.

Next up? A trip to South Wales to face Swansea City – a side that was struggling & facing media scrutiny (especially their manager, Franceso Guidolin) was always going to be a dangerous game to go into. It looked like our barren run at the Liberty was going to continue when Leroy Fer put the home side ahead in the first half, and we didn’t show any signs of waking up. But finally, the second half saw us camped in their half & sustained pressure on their goal. It did pay off with Firmino’s header & a James Milner penalty. We were also able to hold on for our 4th successive win in the Premier League.

Red Monday beckoned. This was a game like no other. This was not a football match. The 90 minutes that proceeded were a way of live for many Liverpudlians & Mancunains. But which was to go home from Anfield with all 3? Who got the bragging rights on this occasion?

Well, the answer to that was, none. YA WHAT?!!?? A game that had received substantial media interest manifested itself in failure. Liverpool probably came the closest to nicking the 3 points, but David De Gea, once again, spared their blushes. A disappointing result considering we were favourites for this.

We were at our fluent best 5 days later, though. Although the 2-1 win against West Brom suggested a unconvincing display, we were simply superb in attack, creating several chances and restricted their aerial threat well with Joel Matip at CB. The only dampener on the evening was conceding the goal towards the end, but we saw the final minutes out easily.

Next up was the EFL Cup. Having made easy strides through the competition so far, this game was taking on a completely different proposition though – a Spurs side that were unbeaten so far in the league. We finally overcame them for the first time since February 2015, with a Daniel Sturridge brace; the Englishman retaining his cult status with the supporters following the criticism he attained for his lack of goals/contribution in the Premier League.

Selhurst Park – the ground we hated returned with a vengeance. Many were saying we would drop points in this encounter because our defence may struggle to deal with Palace’s aggressive frontline. We defied that myth though with a blistering 4-2 away victory. The blot on the evening were the easily avoidable goals conceded, but that mattered little in the context of the game, as we went on to be at our rapid best going forward. Highlight was Coutinho, Mane & Firmino going in front of the visiting supporters to celebrate.

A week later, and we were back at Anfield to face a watertight Watford side that had only conceded 3 goals in the whole of October. Klopp, himself admitted it wasn’t right to get complacent ahead of the game – but there was plenty of justification for optimism, as we recorded an emphatic first half performance that goes up there with arguably our best performance in the first 45 – arguably joint top of that award with the streamrolling of Hull City where we were 3-0 up at half time.

It should have been more – Liverpool could have had 3-4 before the 1st went in – but from then we looked more clinical, and the goals flew in nicely from there. As other results around us went our way, we went 1st in the league for the first time since May 2014, where we lost the title by 2 points to Manchester City.

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The question is: Are we really better than the 2013/14 side that nearly won the title?  The obvious answer looking at the evidence is yet, but more’ll be discussed in my next article, but for now, that’s it for this post. Here’s to a successful spell up until Christmas. Have fun whilst we suffer the side effects of the crippling international break.

Written by @SteLindellLFC

 

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