Dave Tindall assesses Liverpool’s November and talks overachieving, Mo Salah and December’s early games in his latest Red Letter feature.
It often feels like we’re lurching from one drama to the next under Jurgen Klopp.
And November produced a candidate for ‘peak Liverpool’ with that 3-3 draw in Sevilla.
But, viewed as a whole, the month has to be viewed as very positive.
The bare facts appear strong – played six, won four, drawn two, lost none. But look at the goals column. We smashed in 17, scored three or more in five of our six matches, conceded five and kept three clean sheets.
All four wins were achieved by three-goal margins. Just a shame it wasn’t five having fired ourselves into a 3-0 lead at Sevilla!
In the Premier League, it was 10 points gained. That compares to Man City 12, Chelsea 10, Arsenal 9, Man Utd 9, Tottenham 4.
While City are a law unto themselves, we’re doing everything a top-four team should be doing….
Let’s talk about the idea of Liverpool overachieving.
It can be a personal perception and some Liverpool fans will say that sitting 14 points behind Man City and occupying fifth spot in the table is just not good enough. We are Liverpool. We deserve more.
But what is realistic?
The latest edition of Sporting Intelligence’s annual Global Sports Salaries Survey, published this week, lists the average weekly pay of first-team players at all 20 Premier League clubs.
Liverpool are fifth and some way below the two Manchester clubs:
Man United: £100,792
Man City: £100,691
West Ham: £56,478
For the record, Barcelona are top with £126,875 a week, ahead of PSG (£124,468) and Real Madrid (£119,708).
A rich list of football clubs around the world also has Liverpool as the fifth highest Premier League team.
The current Premier League table has Liverpool in fifth place. On the above numbers, we’re meeting expectations.
And yet, we didn’t appoint Jurgen Klopp to make us par for the course.
There have been times during his reign when it felt like we were definitely overachieving – if you believe fifth spot is the benchmark that is.
Reaching two finals in his first season and topping the table in November 2016 certainly felt like we were breaking free of the financial chains that say where we should be in the pecking order.
Our superb record against the other ‘Big Six’ sides last season also felt like we had the gears to accelerate towards those golden lands of overachievement. Leicester know them. Burnley are hoping to have an extended stay there too.
But I have to admit that after the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, I had a real feeling of flatness. Sure, we’re doing well against the poorer teams but that Anfield stalemate allied to the away thumpings at Man City and Spurs suggested a ceiling was in place. We were projected to finish fifth and we were playing like a fifth-placed team.
Right now, it seems that Liverpool’s season is on the cusp. Our points tally in the Premier League has us in a position to really kick on. And a win over Spartak Moscow in the Champions League and a decent last 16 draw suggests a pathway could open up in Europe too.
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I like the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts but overachieving as a team also has to be reliant on certain individuals excelling to heights we couldn’t imagine. Think Vardy, Mahrez and Kante.
And that brings me on to…….
It’s impossible to talk about our impressive recent form without throwing more praise the way of Mo Salah.
I did that in the previous Red Letter and, after analysing the variety of his goals, I also said there was no reason why it wasn’t sustainable.
I wrote that piece after his double in the 4-1 win at West Ham. Since then he’s smashed in five more!
There’s a few beauties emerging now – opener against Southampton, volley against Stoke – as you’d expect with someone that confident but he’s still mixing it up and scoring different types of goals.
Jamie Carragher said at the start of the campaign that Salah was capable of achieving double figures this season. Haha. You can say that again.
Salah now has an eye-popping 17 in all competitions and 12 in the Premier League – two more than anyone else.
Try some goals per minute comparisons. Our Egyptian wonder has netted a Premier League goal once every 87 minutes. That compares rather well to Harry Kane (113 minutes per goal), Alvaro Morata (124), Alexandre Lacazette (135) and Romelu Lukaku (158).
Salah is scoring at Luis Suarez 2013/2014 levels. Forget that search for a recognised striker. We can spend the money elsewhere.
The games are coming thick and fast right now but we appear to be coping well.
The idea that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was an unnecessary luxury is starting to look misplaced. Because the England man is first-team ready, it allows us to rotate our front six and that’s where the energy is needed.
Tottenham don’t have the same options and it’s why some have said that Kane, Alli and Eriksen are looking jaded by the workload.
We rest Mane against Chelsea and he pops up with the opener against Stoke. We leave Salah on the bench for that game and then launch him at a tiring defence and he scores twice.
Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino have also been afforded a break while Adam Lallana is on the verge of a comeback. And let’s not forget about Daniel Sturridge, Dominic Solanke and Ben Woodburn.
Klopp has made a bit of a meal of rotating so far, either overdoing it or not doing it enough, but he seems to be picking his moments better now.
For the away game against Brighton at the weekend and the home tie with Spartak on Wednesday we have a set of fresh and confident players.
December promises much….
By Dave Tindall