Sweet 16? 23 Carra Gold? Not quite, but 16 League games in and 23 games in in all competitions and things are not too bad at all for Jürgen’s Top-of-the-Table Reds! And they haven’t really clicked yet, according to the manager.
22-23 is a low bar – 21-22 had exhausted this team and a big fall-off was always likely. So any comparisons with last season come with that caveat. That being said, the improvement is striking, best illustrated, probably, by this statistic: we’ve reached 37 points after 16 games on the 9th of December; in 22-23 we reached 36 points after 23 games on the the 25th of FEBRUARY! We could be looking at 20-25 points more this season than last, which would get us to the 87-92 range…
None of this was a given, of course, given the turmoil of the summer. To be where we are is remarkable, and all the more so as this group – Klopp 2.0 – are still getting used to each other and the new system.
Before the start of the season, I mentioned ‘Hope’ and wrote what I felt needed to happen for us to have a good season.
‘Alisson remains the best in the world. He was our best player last season. Hopefully we won’t need him as much this, but if we do, he’ll be up to the task.
Virgil gets back to his imperious best. He’s captain now. He’s got to set an example. His role will be key to where we finish.
Trent can combine both roles that he’ll be asked to play. Vice-captain. Future captain. He is also key to all we do.
The new lads hit the ground running. If they do, we’ve got a great chance of having a great season. Curtis came into his own at the end of last season too and in the summer with England. We still need to strengthen in the middle of the park but we should be okay with the five or six we’ve got.
- Competition for places up front will keep everyone on their toes. There are two spots up for grabs (Mo starts every time). Gakpo, Nunez, Diogo and Diaz will all be desperate to start. And the two who don’t should provide great options off the bench.’
So far, so good!
Alisson has been sensational – he’s the best there is. Of all the Klopp signings, he’s in the top three, isn’t he? We’re probably 5-6 points better off this season – already! – thanks to him. Newcastle, City and Palace spring to mind as games where he was decisive. Trent’s goal against City wouldn’t have happened only for that point-blank save 15 seconds prior. An absolute gem.
Virgil has been imperious. Ever since his antics against Newcastle and the subsequent two-match ban, he’s taken the bull by the horns and has shown the way to everyone else. No mattter who his partner at centre-half or down that left-hand side (and there have been a few) he’s been consistent. A huge part of our current success.
The jury is still out on Trent in this dual role. It’s going to take time, but suffice to say, he’s coming into it, as evidenced by recent goals, especially, and as the season goes on, he’ll get better.
The middle of the park has been steady if not spectacular. What more could we expect after a total rebuild? Two of the lads came in very late in the window too – Gravenberch and Endo – and they’ve started to play a role of late. Mac Allister will improve too, as will Dom as he continues to build that understanding with Trent and Mo.
As for the front five? 40 goals in 23 games. And given we will play a minimum of 50 games this season (we’ll likely play between 55 and 60), we could be looking at over 100 from them alone.
As much as all of the above has been key to this season’s success, there are other factors. One is Europe. Pre-season, in the same article, I said this:
[…] the lack of intense European football (while our main rivals will all have to juggle that calendar up to December at least) and things don’t seem so grim.
The Europa League has been, as Gérard would probably have said back in the day ‘a blessing in disguise’. First, because this team / squad would not have been able for Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday football at this stage in its development. This competition has afforded us the chance to rotate – something Klopp has done brilliantly – and keep everyone fresh. Had we finished fourth last season, we would have been in a group with PSG, Dortmund and Milan. Look at the effect this has had on Newcastle. Even this week, United play Bayern, while we have a dead rubber.
Second, it’s allowed us – by virtue of rotation – to keep ‘fringe’ or second-choice players happy by giving them lots of game time. Kelleher, Gomez, Kostas, Endo, Gravenberch, Jones, Harvey, amongst others. 20 (TWENTY) players have figured in 8 or more games this season. That’s exceptional management of resources.
Third, it’s allowed us to introduce new players – like Quansah – helping them get experience and look at ease when they are called upon in the League (Newcastle, Wolves and Palace for Quansah).
Fourth, it’s helped build confidence and momentum: four wins out of five, 16 goals.
Old-timers playing as well as they’ve ever done, new signings hitting the ground running, forwards scoring, Anfield as a bastion, the Manager managing his resources to perfection all adds up to 17 wins out of 23. And to:
- The second-best attack in the League.
- The joint-best defence in the League.
- The best goal difference in the League.
Libpool, Top of the League
Libpool Libpool, Top of the League.
Don’t believe the Table? Listen to the Fume. It’s a sure sign we’re back.