I must start by adding the caveat that I did not feel this way at the end of the January transfer window, I like most reds were livid with the club for not replacing Coutinho. I even offered that not replacing him was gross misconduct and wanted many at the club taken to task over such negligence.
But the question must now be asked “Were Liverpool right in not replacing Coutinho when he left in January?”
Liverpool’s noteworthy business in January was this, sell Coutinho and get Van Dijk. I saw this, at the time, as one step forward and one step back. Standing still as everybody else around us improved their own squads. City got Laporte. United got Sanchez. Chelsea got Giroud. Spurs got Lucas Moura. Arsenal got Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan.
I’ll tell you this now though, I wouldn’t swap any of the players those clubs signed for Virgil Van Dijk
VVD is player I hoped he would be and more. The calmest head on the pitch. The organiser. Look how good the rest of the defence looks around him now. Karius is better than Buffon. Lovren the new Costacurta. The full backs allowed to push forward and express themselves as he seems to have everything in hand. He allows the midfield to push up and offer options up the pitch as he doesn’t need Can or Henderson to drop in between the centre backs and pass the ball because he’s already playing 50 yard diagonals to the wingers. He makes mistakes, of course he does, but he laughs them off and carries on with an air of confidence that I’ve never seen in a defender in the 31 years I’ve been following Liverpool.
Liverpool’s recent improvement as an overall team isn’t just the addition of Van Dijk though. I have been really impressed with many of the players. Milner has been fantastic recently, Henderson a captain and playmaker but its Oxlade-Chamberlain who I have been most impressed by and most intrigued by. I think the manager has done something very clever with him. We know Firmino is the master of the blind tackle, where he appears as an opposition midfielder has just taken the ball and
is trying to get his head up, hassles them, wins it and we are on the attack. But Oxo has been doing the same thing recently. He is pushing up on the opposition backline when we are in possession and then dropping deep quickly when a battle starts in midfield to offer another body and spring quick attacks. This can be evidenced in our first goal against Newcastle were he dropped in, the ball came to him, he charged forward, played in Mo Salah and Mo scores. We are not simply passing the ball to a small but brilliant number 10 and asking him to do the rest anymore. It’s a real team effort.
Klopp has said himself after West Ham that not relying on Phil has helped the team grow. “On a good day it makes you more unpredictable if you don’t have this dominant player but on another day you miss a player like that, Phil Coutinho was a very dominant player in our game and when we were not at our best it was always a good idea to give him the ball, maybe he has an idea. You can never be sure it will work but now it is a few weeks ago and I am really happy with the reaction of the boys, they stepped up. I am happy it has worked so far pretty well but it feels like it is already a few months ago. I am happy it has worked quite well but I am only interested in how it will work tomorrow and not in the last few weeks.”
The results recently are good. We lost once in the league to Swansea, drew in disgraceful circumstances with Spurs and have won the rest. That’s 6 games Liverpool have won in the league since he left. We also have a quarter final of the champions league to look forward to. It’s time to forget about Countiho and look forward to the future, as the club are doing in attempting to tie our fantastic front three down to long contract extensions.
You can sense the growing optimism and trust in the ground too, no longer are people groaning when a chance is missed, no longer are people screaming at the keeper to get rid because he caught the ball 2 seconds ago, no longer are people shouting 6 rows up in the kop for people to shut up and
calm down, whilst also being told to shut and calm down. There is a calmness in the ground that this manager, this club and these players will get it right and we are moving towards something special. The fans are on board.
Liverpool have only bettered our points tally at this stage in the league twice in the premier league era, in 2008/09 and in 2013/14. We finished both or those years second in the league. We also went to Old Trafford and took them to pieces…
Here’s to a big push in the league and champions league leading into next year and who knows,
maybe even a big day out in Kiev in May.
Come on Liverpool, Make Us Dream.