Part one of the season done. Well, it feels like that anyway.
Maybe I’m just saying it because we’re top of the league and through in Europe, and it feels nice to draw a line at the end of it before we mess it up.
For much of part one Liverpool were shaky, and at times ineffective in performance. But results-wise, they maintained an unmercifully efficient pace to stay in touch with Manchester City, and keep themselves alive in Europe.
Find it fascinating that Man City have started like a train & are yet to shake off Liverpool who haven’t kicked into first gear (it’s now December). You just never know… #LFC
— Ryan Taylor (@RyanTaylorSport) December 3, 2018
People have panicked at times through the opening months of the season, but with the possible exception of Chelsea away, Liverpool didn’t come out of a single league game with more points than they deserved.
Whether the team’s second-gear start was by design or default, we’ll have to wait for the autobiographies to come out in ten years’ time.
But either way, the Reds are top of the league and are only now starting to reach their full potential, something that City have been doing since August. It is almost like the maths has been done wrong and Guardiola’s side have been deducted five points somewhere down the line. But for better or for worse, we’re back on our perch for the time being.
Liverpool are top of the league! Watch out Pep 👀 pic.twitter.com/Xr0nMbUMLD
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) December 8, 2018
There’s some revisionism going on about last season. The idea that we were imperious from start to finish is wrong. Sorry lads.
Liverpool were all over the place for much of September and October. Following the 4-1 defeat at Wembley they sat ninth, with a goal difference of plus one.
The second half of the year will be remembered for great wins on the continent, and rightly so. But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Losses came to Swansea, United and Chelsea in the league as well as West Brom in the cup, while the Reds looked leggy as the season came to close, with what was a ten point lead going down to the final day.
What got Liverpool 75 points and fourth place was their form in the depths of Winter. It’s simple maths. If you’re going to peak at any stage in the season, make sure it’s at the turn of the year. It’s literally the time with the most amount of games.
You don’t hear pundits say this very much, do you? It’s as if no one’s noticed. Perhaps it’s too simplistic, but you can’t argue with the facts.
Last season, Liverpool went on the march this time of year, finding their best form of the league season. There’s signs that they’re about to do the same.
Against Bournemouth the intensity was turned up a few notches. The Reds were slick, aggressive and to use my favourite term only ever used in football – high octane.
Mo Salah looked like last year’s PFA Player of the Year again. Dare I say the Reds ‘clicked’, and did so for a full ninety minutes for the first time in the league this season.
Tuesday’s Napoli clash saw Liverpool turn the clock back, albeit only back to April of this year when they were vanquishing all in front of them on the European stage.
Napoli are a proper football team. Outside of Juve, they are comfortably Italy’s best, and they showed that in the first-half at Anfield. But Liverpool made them look like mugs in the second-half, and should’ve put four past David Ospina.
The pressing, the speed and the audacity of the Reds showed them close to their best in all departments ecceex finishing.
All season we’ve been reminded of how good Liverpool still are when they’re not playing well, so it was nice this week to be kindly reminded how brilliant we are when we do play well.
It would be the perfect time to capitalise on this week’s two top performances and kick on. Just off six games on the bounce and there’s still United, Wolves, Newcastle, Arsenal, City and Wolves again to play in the next 25 days.
You can’t play at one-hundred percent for 38 games. You have to pick your moments to maximise your chances off still being in the mix come April, whilst also having some gas in the tank for when the run-in does arrive.
This is exactly what Jurgen Klopp and his staff would’ve dreamt of coming into Christmas. Top of the league and kicking into form, and City second with their ‘slump’ seemingly not too far away.
Whether the Mancunians’ eventual drop-off in performance results in a loss of points will be determined by the bottle Guardiola’s team show and whether or not they have the grit that Liverpool showcased in bucket loads over the last four months.
It is, along with the two sides’ meeting at the Etihad in January, what will decide who lifts the league in May.
But for now Jurgen Klopp’s men must make sure Napoli and Bournemouth aren’t flashes in the pan of an 83 point season. They must kick on and make sure they count for something come May, that they signalled the start of Liverpool’s steamrolling mid-season run which catapulted the Reds to a nineteenth league title.
It’s the best time to find form. Make it count Reds.