Now the international break is upon us it seems a good time to take stock and determine if this is the year Liverpool can finally end their title drought or if they’ll be entertaining, but ultimately unsuccessful yet again.
The obvious answer is yes, of course, they can win it and this is reflected in the current football betting odds, with the Reds now second favourites at 4/1. Even after losing to Spurs, Manchester City remain clear favourites and if Pep Guardiola can address a few issues, it’s possible they might be too strong for Liverpool, just like the 2013/14 season.
Yet this looks like being a vintage Premier League season and even though City have looked mighty impressive at times, it’s only October and so much can happen before the destination of the title is decided. Here are a few reasons why this could be Liverpool’s year:
The defence is improving and you’d back Jurgen Klopp to continue to make improvements. This might seem a little ridiculous when The Reds haven’t kept a clean sheet all season, but other than the crazy 3-4 game against Arsenal and the malfunction of a 2-0 reverse at Turf Moor, Liverpool are conceding just a goal per game. James Milner looks a fit at left-back, Joel Matip seems to be one of the best ever free transfers, Nathaniel Clyne is now looking good going both ways, Dejan Lovren looks the player he was at Southampton and Ragnar Klavan is an able deputy.
The only real concern is at goalkeeper, where Loris Karius seems much better with his feet, but looked timid and failed to come for crosses against Swansea and Simon Mignolet has never convinced. It seems Liverpool have two good Goalkeepers when what they really need is one great one. Mignolet has been given chances, now it’s Karius’ turn to show he can improve and become the main man between the sticks that the squad will need if they’re to get near the title.
There is depth to the squad and new players have seamlessly slipped into the team tactics and mentality. It can be difficult adding players to a squad without disrupting the dynamics and it’s especially difficult to manage players’ game time, as no one wants to be warming the bench. Klopp has done a great job of integrating players such as Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum into the team and there is no doubt that they have improved the performances while the team mentality looks strong. Yet it’s players such as the returning Emre Can, Danny Ings and Marko Grujic that might prove crucial to a title run.
These players either haven’t done enough in training, have picked up an injury or are simply not as good as someone else in their position but in spite of that, they could be decisive to Liverpool’s success. Either coming off the bench or taking the place of an injured player, these are men Klopp will be calling on to do a job for him and his options look very much improved over previous Liverpool squads. Hopefully, these players are up to the job, as injuries will happen and Mane will be off to the African Nations Cup in the New Year, meaning that some players not getting much game time currently, will need to be ready to perform.
Liverpool’s attack will cause problems for any side they face and without the distraction of European football they should be able to maintain the level of performance that has been so impressive thus far. Unlike the 2013/14 season that relied so much on the excellence of Luis Suarez, this campaign’s attack has a combination of fluidity and agility that incorporates many players without being reliant on any one individual.
Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and company all hunt the ball together, are then quick to interchange for the attack and it’s a recipe for disaster for any defence they come up against. The statistics show that this Liverpool team is running more than any other side they come up against and the more they play like this the fitter they’ll get. When Klopp first came to the club, there was a problem with many hamstring injuries incurred, but with a full pre-season behind them and no midweek trips around Europe, this should no longer be an issue and the attacking football we love should continue to flourish.
Seven league games in and Liverpool have only played two at Anfield, have played last years’ Champions and a few of the teams expected to challenge this year, yet they sit on 16 points. There’s a long way to go, but there are a few reasons to be optimistic that this is the year.