Six points clear at the top of premiership at Christmas is kind of present not even the most loaded football club owner can buy and for Liverpool fans, after twenty-eight long years without a league title, if their team are able to remain top come May the feeling associated to such glory would no doubt be priceless. As by the time the majority of the leftover turkey and gammon had been stuffed into sandwiches, Manchester City had inexplicably slipped to their third defeat in four league games, meaning that an ever improving Tottenham slotted into second place behind a Jurgen Klopp machine that doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.
Liverpool, who remain the only unbeaten side in the league, simply just keep on winning by whatever means necessary. After being gifted three points by Jordan Pickford’s mistimed attempt at a slam dunk in the Merseyside derby, Jurgen Klopp’s side have gone from strength to strength in recent weeks, winning their five league games since scoring sixteen goals in the process while conceding just two. Facts that serve as an accurate microcosm for a season where they have let in just seven goals, which in a league of the premiership’s current standard really is quite remarkable. At the halfway stage of the season they stand just twenty-four points behind their entire points tally from last term.
The secret to their recent success isn’t really a secret at all, they spent an a head turning amount of money on improving their back five and are now reaping the benefits of the board’s decision to fully back Klopp in the transfer market. Virgil Van Dijk, despite only being at the club for a year after his much talked bout £75 million switch from Southampton, seems to be already well worth the hefty price tag he arrived with. He is the ever present heart and centre of a back four, that despite not always being static personnel wise, is the newly rock solid foundation that Liverpool build their dynamic approach to football from. Not to mention an equally expensive goalkeeper behind them in Allison, who crucially can actually make saves, routine or otherwise, much more often than not. In the simplest terms possible, spending money has made LIverpool’s defence a lot better which in turn has made them a lot better.
It isn’t that simple of course, there are plenty of success stories elsewhere in Klopp’s established back five. Joe Gomez, after bludgeoning his way into the first team has been an excellent partner in crime (if good tackling is a crime these days) to Van Dijk, while Trent Alexander Arnold and in particular Scottish captain Andy Robertson have had great seasons so far at right and left full back respectively. Its the fruition of this consistently well-functioning defensive unit that so far this term has allowed LIverpool to fulfil the obvious potential for greatness that they shown since Klopp’s arrival just over three years ago.
This newly formed consistency at the back combined with the well-established electric attacking force that Liverpool possess has left fans (like myself) waiting for a slip up or blip that hasn’t happened. It was supposed to be they not City who blinked first in the title race and the general feeling, even as recently as that last gasp victory versus Everton, was that by the time Valentine’s Day came around Pep Guardiola’s team would already be beginning to race away from the pack. However, just six days after Jurgen Klopp ran onto the pitch like an over enthusiastic substitute, City slipped to their first defeat of the season at Chelsea and for whatever reason have endured a fairly torrid December ever since.
With fifty-seven points still to play for and probably one of the best club squads ever assembled trying to chase you down, you imagine a manager such as Klopp will be forever telling his players not to get ahead of themselves and as always with titles races luck of the draw with injuries will have a huge impact on how things play out. Yet with Arsenal at Anfield followed an outrageously big game versus City at the Etihad up next, it’s perhaps time for Klopp’s side to really show the world if they can do what seemed highly unlikely back in August. Many will back them to beat an Arsenal side that is struggling with defensive issues once more, and if they do they will go into the City game with at least a seven point lead on them. If that is the case at kick off, then many would advise them simply not to lose the game to maintain that healthy gap and that’s as sound advice as you’ll hear over Christmas and New Year.
Yet playing for a draw doesn’t really seem to be in Klopp’s wheelhouse even versus City and having beaten Pep’s superstars at home last season in the league and so emphatically in that Champions League Quarter-final tie back in April, then it might be a better idea to approach the game in their typically aggressive fashion. They will have a degree more momentum going into the game (as long they beat Arsenal, which of course isn’t a given) and if they manage to beat City they will likely go at least ten points clear of them, which some would argue would lead to the fat lady dusting off her microphone.
In reality of course it’s far too early in the season to make any bold statements, and as City’s December woes have shown, things can change quickly in football. However, every week Liverpool are doing what they need to do, winning football matches (having expertly timed their four defeats this season for the Champions League and Carabao Cup) and as long as they keep that doing on a regular basis until spring arrives then that nearly thirty year wait could be about to end.
Something that may trip them up is ironically their own success in the form of the Champions League knockout stages. It’s difficult to foresee any squad in the league other than that of City’s being able to go all the way on two fronts, so Klopp may have to make some very difficult choices in the last few months of the season. Yet it’s true to say that City, especially if the league looks beyond reach, may prioritise European glory themselves, which could to lead impossibly vivid dreams finally being realised for Liverpool in the Premier League era.
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