In his weekly Liverpool blog, lifelong Reds fan Dave Tindall discusses the possibility of a Premier League title challenge as Jurgen Klopp continues to work his magic.
“And that’s Origi’s hat-trick. Liverpool lead 6-1 at Southampton.”
Two months ago, those words would have taken first prize in a ‘biggest flight of fancy’ competition. Now they are a fact and it’s all gone a bit Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.
Being a Liverpool fan right now is wonderfully and marvellously surreal.
When I persuaded the good people at TEAMtalk to let me pen a weekly Liverpool column, I was excited by the opportunity but imagined I’ve have to dip frequently into nostalgia (I’ve got plenty of Beatles references up my sleeve if you haven’t already noticed) to distract me from the rather average fodder being served up on the pitch.
This was in September when Brendan Rodgers’ Reds were churning out 1-1s against the likes of Norwich, Carlisle and Sion.
Then, before the opening column, a bolt of electricity crackled through Anfield as the fanciful talk of Jurgen Klopp taking over became a sudden and exciting reality. Great news for me on several levels.
Like everyone, I was caught up in it all, concluding the first Red Letter by saying: ‘We have some good, perhaps excellent, component parts to work with and, like the majority of Liverpool fans, I can’t wait to see him piece it together, strap us in and take us for a wild ride.’
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After starting with three draws, a slight reality check was needed and it was a question of highlighting the positives, urging patience and hoping that the ‘Klopp effect’ might kick in after Christmas.
And then came the 3-1 win at Chelsea.
And then came the 4-1 win at Man City.
And now a 6-1 win at Southampton.
This is getting ridiculous. Klopp DOES have a magic wand. These aren’t just wins; these are demolition jobs at the grounds of top sides. Three tough, tough road trips and we’ve won them by an aggregate of 13-3. Unbelievable.
Klopp is creating something very special and, honestly, there’s no team I’d rather be a fan of right now. You might not get them to admit it, but your mates who support other clubs are massively jealous!
Liverpool in the title race
So, what next? To be literal, an away game at Newcastle (stop salivating/laughing) but, of course, I’m thinking further into the future.
Following the 3-1 win at Chelsea, a poll in the subsequent Red Letter article asked ‘How will Liverpool do under Klopp this season?’
The options were Top Four, Top Six, Seventh, Eighth, Top 10 or Bottom-Half. The majority (53%) didn’t even think a top-four finish was possible.
Third, Second and First weren’t even listed as options, but after the thrilling 4-1 win at The Etihad and 1-0 victory over Swansea, several folk (be it media types or optimistic Reds) started to look at the table a little closer. Not only was the gap to fourth place relatively small at four points, it was only another two more to leaders Manchester City.
And so the whispers started. Six points off top spot with 24 games to play….could Liverpool actually be in the title race?!
After watching Sturridge, Origi and co brush off the concession of an early goal to hammer Southampton 6-1 at St Mary’s, for many that has become a ‘yes’.
Part of the optimism is being fuelled by all the goings on around us. Man City and Arsenal still look vulnerable, Leicester surely can’t keep this going, Spurs are just Spurs and Man Utd’s players will surely die of boredom around February.
While others’ engines stutter, maybe this is Liverpool’s chance to accelerate past them all and win this wackiest of title races.
For now, the recipe is thrilling wins on the road and huff-and-puff jobs at Anfield. The fixture list has suited us in that respect as we’ve now played all the tough away games and cashed in on our current strengths by bagging wins at City and Chelsea and holding Arsenal and Spurs.
If Klopp can work out the right formula at Anfield, then by the time we play all those reverse fixtures, the Reds might be a force at home too. For the record, the key dates are: Arsenal (Jan 13), Man Utd (Jan 17), Man City (Mar 1), Chelsea (Mar 12), Spurs (Apr 2).
If you’re dreaming big, look at our last six fixtures: Stoke (H), Bournemouth (A), Newcastle (H), Swansea (A), Watford (H), West Brom (A). They’re all winnable. Just sayin’.
To be honest, I think the bookies have it about right. Liverpool range between 10/1 and 12/1 and are fourth favourites. It’s a price that shows there is much to do but also one that suggests it isn’t impossible.
What will it take? Some might say a miracle but, taking a more down to earth view, Anfield becoming a fortress again, a guarantee that Sturridge will play the majority (let’s say 18) of the final 24 games and a bit of incompetence from City, United and Arsenal. Each is possible but for all those elements to combine is asking an awful lot.
However, to even be part of a title conversation after just two months of Klopp’s reign is incredible and the rejuvenation process has been staggering.
Improvement in Liverpool players
Name a Liverpool player who hasn’t upped his performance significantly since the German bounded into Anfield like Rik Mayall’s Lord Flashheart in Blackadder.
The much-maligned Dejan Lovren is starting to transform into a strong and imposing central defender, Joe Allen is looking industrious and creative again (what a ball for Sturridge’s opener), Jordan Ibe is making Raheem Sterling’s departure look more and more like we were right to swap a bad apple for lots of cash, Lucas has new-found energy and zip, Roberto Firmino and Emre Can (and you thought Allen’s through ball was good) are dropping hints that we could have two potential superstars on our hands….
I could go on. In fact, I will go on. Philippe Coutinho has added goals to his ball wizardry, Jordan Henderson is fit again, Daniel Sturridge (back in action thanks to some mental cajoling from Klopp) is quite simply the best finisher in English football and Divock Origi is a player after all.
And I haven’t even mentioned Nathaniel Clyne, Christian Benteke, Adam Lallana, Alberto Moreno and Mamadou Sakho, who have all done much to impress at various times.
James Milner? Like Steven Gerrard in the 2013/14 season, his experience and ability to convert crucial penalties could prove vital down the crunch closing stretch.
Okay, a couple of marquee signings in the January transfer window wouldn’t go amiss, but forget all that talk of this LFC squad requiring serious surgery. To be handing out beatings on this level shows the talent is there already.
As those who watched the Beatles in their thrilling early days at the Cavern might have said, “this lot could be massive!”