Prior to the international break, the Reds were getting results but with poor performances. This prompted plenty of debate on social media, labelled by some as a ‘meltdown’. Here’s The Anfield Talk’s Ronan (@ronan_orourke) on why the Reds should be just fine after the international break…
I feel these are words I have written many times before, and yet somehow I am never surprised when the time comes around again. Here we stand about 3 months into the season with a meltdown seemingly imminent, and in many instances the process has already began. It is almost painful to read at times but that is the reality of being a football supporter. There is nothing wrong with being angry at circumstances every once in a while but there should be a limit. We do need to take the bad with the good but at what point is a negative reaction justified? Not just yet I would say, and here is why.
An ounce of perspective is always useful in these kinds of situations. After all, Liverpool are unbeaten in the league despite having already traveled to Stamford Bridge, Wembley and the Emirates. We are also sitting in a decent position in a very strong Champions League group where a victory in our next match would seal qualification with a game to spare. The team have also been grinding out the type of results in the league that were not as commonplace in years past. These are all signs of progress yet some would have you think that we are doomed. Maybe we are? Maybe I am actually the one who has lost my mind. Let’s take a look at some key areas.
The Catalyst Stuttering
What should be most pleasing to Liverpool supporters is that the team hasn’t even come close to hitting top form. More specifically the front three have not exactly been firing on all cylinders. Sadio Mané has undoubtedly shown flashes of brilliance this season but has run a little hot and cold lately. This is of no major concern in itself, but when combined with a slightly out of sorts Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah perhaps still not fully trusting his injured shoulder again it is a recipe for a stuttering turbo engine.
The re-emergence of Daniel Sturridge as a legitimate threat has thankfully minimized the scale of this emergency but Liverpool will not truly start firing until the catalyst Firmino hits top form again. He is just that important to how this side plays. The all singing, all dancing, all pressing, all scoring, all creating Bobby is the man we need, and I am confident he will be himself again before too long.
Manchester City are Pretty, Pretty Good
Jamie Carragher rightly pointed out what I thought was a fairly obvious observation on Monday Night Football this week. He reminded us that Manchester City are comfortably the favorites for the league and that we as a fanbase do need to relax. We are chasing a phenomenal team, with a world class manager a year after they completely swept aside all competition and waltzed at a canter to the Premier League title. We could have signed Lionel Messi and City still would have been the team we’d be chasing.
Even without Kevin De Bruyne, City still have a squad packed to the brim with world class talent. They signed former Premier League winner Rihad Mahrez as a squad player for 60 million pounds, they have given Bernardo Silva a bigger role in the team when they already have probably the greatest Silva of all time, David, running the show in midfield. They even have the luxury of leaving a player with the scintillating talent of Leroy Sané on the bench for half their games. It is almost unfair to try and compete with this calibre of squad.
As Carra also rightly pointed out though, while they are favorites we can still win the league if everything falls in place. So let’s just keep enjoying staying in touch for the moment, because we were already long out of contention at this time last year.
Progress Through the Years
I probably shouldn’t need to point this out but let’s go ahead anyway. It was not too long ago that our striking options were Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli. Squad players like Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Matip and Alberto Moreno used to be our best options at those positions but times have changed. Professional footballers are just like anyone else in that they need to be placed in the right role to maximise their opportunity to contribute to the cause. Moving these players back a step in the depth chart and bringing in more capable starters has made a massive difference to the squad strength.
Even players like Divock Origi who was a huge Klopp favourite in his first season now struggles to even make it on the bench for games. The same could be said of Adam Lallana who I wrote about exclusively last week. Lallana though is clearly a player that the boss still trusts and is determined to crowbar him into the team in an effort to have the player regain his sharpness. I do still have faith in Lallana, maybe I am crazy?
The depth most importantly is at a level now where new signings can be eased into the team.
Fabinho and Keita
This time last year, it still wasn’t exactly abundantly clear why Klopp signed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The common complaint at the time was that we had wasted money on an area of the pitch which we already had strength and that we should have invested in a defensive signing instead (safe to say we still did that too in January!). The point is that the Ox didn’t exactly look like a top acquisition initially but his absence is now considered as a gaping black hole in the team.
Therefore, it is important to see the bigger picture with Naby Keita and particularly Fabinho. Rest assured that both are top class operators who have shown sporadically what they can bring to the table. It is not fair to believe they should land in the Premier League like ducks to water though. They will get there. Just have a little faith and patience. We will be rewarded.
So rest assured fellow Reds. The sky is not falling in from above us. In fact the fun is really only just getting started. We are seeing the emergence of young talents like Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold in front of our eyes who are both part of the best defense we’ve had since Rafa Benitez wandered up and down the Anfield touchline. Trust the process, trust Firmino, trust the midfield, and most importantly trust Klopp. The best is yet to come and we will soon see just why.