Would we really have it any other way? The life of a Liverpool supporter is one filled with incidents of often irrational doubt or fear. It hard to blame us for feeling this way, after all there have been countless moments in the past 30 years where our worst nightmares have come true. We are a club with so much history of success but more recent episodes often lead us to assume the worst. We have sadly become conditioned to expect failure. It is a case of we almost feel as if we don’t deserve nice things…
Regardless of what happens over the coming months, the current squad have demonstrated to us time and time again that maybe the course of history is changing once more. For the most part we can thank Jurgen Klopp for this important shift in our attitude as a club. After all, he made it clear early in his tenure that as a club that things needed to change from top to bottom.
He was widely mocked by outsiders for bringing the team to the Kop to show appreciation to the fans after Divock Origi’s late equalizer against West Brom back in 2015. Thankfully Klopp doesn’t appear to care too much what others think of him or his team. He was building something bigger, playing the long game, and we while opposing supporters may still laugh, we are unquestionably reaping the rewards now of the German’s steely determination to change the culture at Anfield.
Throughout the Premier League era we have made valiant efforts at title challenges using quite distinctly different approaches to the game which have all eventually fallen short. The Roy Evans team was brilliant to watch but lacked the X factor required in going the extra mile needed to reach the league summit. Gerard Houllier took a more pragmatic approach and changed the face of the football club but he do couldn’t quite take us to the promised land.
Rafa Benitez then took Houllier’s methods to another level and even won us the Champions League. But despite being comfortably the best team in 2009, somehow failed to win the title. Rafa at least successfully made us part of the European elite again, something which didn’t seem possible for quite a while.
Then you have the Brendan Rodgers challenge in 2014 which for something which transpired so recently, has incredibly distorted memories for many of what actually took place. That team went on a stunning run after the New Year and somewhat fell into a title race. It was nothing like this season in that we have proven from the beginning that we belong in this battle. What is true is that side was too reliant on goals from Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. For all the talk of bottling that race though, it was in fact Arsenal who led the league for the longest that year…
Anyway, what is important to remember is the position this team is in is no accident. Similarly to 2009, this squad was built in the right way adding key pieces along the way. The squad has been assembled in such a way that should fill us with confidence. Yet once again we have a formidable foe in our way. Back then it was Manchester United, this time it is their cross town rivals City. A team that just may well be the best in Premier League history.
Both the recent Brighton and Crystal Palace games were stressful for completely contrasting reasons. Klopp declared the Brighton game to be Liverpool’s most professional performance since he arrived. I do appreciate the level of composed professionalism on display but one goal leads are never exactly enjoyable no matter how much I believe in this team. There is no beating around the bush, the next fifteen games are going to be absolute torture.
It is on weekends like this though that I can appreciate a bit of tranquility. It is akin to an international break without the constant stress that someone will get injured in a pointless friendly. Instead the squad is fully getting prepared and focused for the gauntlet that lies ahead.
Getting knocked out of cup competitions is never fun. I was on the Kop the night a bit of Eden Hazard wizardry sent us tumbling out of the Carabao Cup. The pain was very real at the time. The blur of Hazard’s blue jersey whirring across the pitch is imprinted in my mind. In one sense it reminded me of why football is so special. Not long before that moment of hurt, I witnessed a breathtaking piece of skill from Daniel Sturridge to give us the lead. I was devastated but one must admire class of the highest order whether it comes for or against us (see also Gareth Bale in the Champions League final).
In retrospect though, getting knocked out of both domestic cups may prove a blessing in disguise. When trying to topple a beast like Manchester City, you have to give yourself the best possible chance to win, and right now that is being free from the distraction of unnecessary games. I grew up loving the FA Cup but it is sadly no longer the ultimate goal. There are bigger fish to fry.
The imminent return of important resources like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez is coming at just the right time. Even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s comeback isn’t that terribly far over the horizon anymore either. I still have faith that too Naby Keita is going to click into top form this season. It is a matter of when and not if for the Guinean midfielder, he is just too good for it not to happen. We are gearing up for an important late season assault and every additional weapon we can muster is only going to help (see Divock Origi in the Merseyside Derby).
So if you haven’t already done so, it is time to buckle up your seatbelt and brace yourself for what will hopefully be the ride of our lives. Try to remember most importantly that we are top because we deserve to be. If we simply take care of our own business, we will give ourselves a great opportunity to make history. This does feel different to 2009, different to 2014. We can only control what we do, and we cannot afford to focus on City. After all, in almost any other season we would have a much bigger advantage at this stage. Just our luck… but just don’t forget we wouldn’t have it any other way right?