Liverpool stand seven games away from the greatest season of a generation. Resident Red, Dave Tindall, is getting rather giddy in the latest installment of Red Letter….
When Liverpool played out a lacklustre 0-0 stalemate with Everton in the Merseyside derby, it was our fifth draw in seven games.
Three were goalless; the other two ended 1-1. There was a distinct lack of spark.
Despite our hugely promising position in the title race, part of me craved for the previous season when we running riot and smashing in goals galore. A big part of being a football fan is having fun and this had all got a bit frustrating and downbeat.
The chief concern was that Liverpool were losing momentum just as they were about to enter the business end of the campaign.
True, we weren’t losing but churning out a front three of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Bobby Firmino didn’t seem to be working anymore. Did they need a rest after a World Cup summer? Should we have signed someone in the January transfer window to keep them on their toes?
The 0-0 at Goodison was the fourth straight game in which Salah had failed to score. He missed a couple of glorious chances that Sunday afternoon and, as we know, the drought would continue for some time to come.
Elsewhere, Jordan Henderson was still dividing opinion and Naby Keita – the man we’d brought in as the difference maker to beef up the creativity and end product from midfield – was providing nothing.
The Guinea international’s return up that point was no goals and just a single assist. Reds fans were still hopeful and giving him the benefit of the doubt but if his season had ended there and he’d moved on during the summer, Keita’s brief Anfield career could only have been described as a flop.
That Everton game seems an age ago now but, checking the dates, was played at the start of March.
At the time, Manchester City were building up a head of steam again and would go on a 14-game run which produced 13 wins and a Wembley League Cup triumph over Chelsea.
In other words, they were playing to last season’s incredible levels. It would take a mighty, almost perfect, run of results to stay with them.
The idea of a City Quadruple felt like a real thing. Talk of a Liverpool Premier League/Champions League double seemed more like a theoretical possibility.
But now look!
Our double is down to just 5/1 with the bookies while City could end an amazing campaign with just the League Cup.
Suddenly, everything is clicking again for LFC.
Salah is back in the goals once more with three in the last four – that superb solo effort to turn the game at Southampton, the worldie in the 2-0 win over Chelsea and a classic breakaway strike against Porto.
Mo Salah. Ice in his veins. ❄️
Alexander-Arnold with his 9️⃣th assist of the season as Liverpool seal it. pic.twitter.com/86yzUriq04
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 17, 2019
While Salah stalled, Mane stepped up to the role of golden boy, scoring six times in four games following the derby draw and adding strikes against Chelsea and Porto in the last week to make it 10 in 11 since the end of February.
Like Mane, Firmino scored twice in the 4-2 win over Burnley which followed the Everton match and has popped up with three in his last five. He’s also been given some rest thanks to Origi adding some useful squad assistance.
Even Henderson has turned into a better version of himself
The skipper, after a chat with Jurgen Klopp, appears to have turned in to Kevin De Bruyne, scoring and providing assists having been given a new advanced position in midfield.
Keita now has two goals in his last three games after precisely zero in his first 27, a key equaliser at Southampton when we were on the ropes and the opener in the first leg against Porto.
Joe Gomez, one of the stars of early season, is back after his lengthy injury break to give us more options in defence.
And then, of course, there’s all the real and gritty stuff that is so vital at this stage of a season and which has never gone away.
Under Brendan Rodgers when just missing out on the title in 2013/14, we had all the flamboyance and flair but lacked the solidity and belief when it really mattered most. The plan back then was that however bad the defence was, Stevie G or Suarez would bail us out.
Now, we have a team full of believers. Go behind in a game? No trouble, we’ll turn it around. Need a late winner? Yep, we’ll find it. It’s always reassuring to see those graphics pop up on screen which list how many goals teams score in the final 15 minutes of games. We’re always top of it.
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How many points is Van Dijk worth to Liverpool?
God knows how many points Virgil Van Dijk has been worth to us this season both directly (cutting out crosses, making key tackles) or indirectly (spreading a sense of calm to those around him).
But in those five draws which now represent our sticky patch, we conceded just twice. Points were gained when we were clearly not at our best and just a single one of them could ultimately decide the fate of the title.
Jogging on the spot isn’t always ideal but it at least provides a platform from which to launch another forward burst. And that’s what we’ve done since the derby stalemate which now represents our ground zero-zero.
Eight wins on the trot, a Champions League semi-final with Barcelona to come and a Premier League title bid which has been extraordinary however it turns out.
Our total of 85 points with four games to play is absurd. Arsenal finished second with 71 the year Leicester won and the runner-up this time could end up with 97!
And what of City?
I can’t quite work out whether City going out of the Champions League is a good thing for Liverpool. On the one hand, it destroys their shield of invincibility; on another, it saves their tiring legs from two, and possibly three, extra games.
There’s a theory knocking around – and at this stage I’m refusing to buy into it – that City’s more experienced stars wanted the Champions League more and winning the Premier League (again) isn’t of paramount importance to them.
But when it comes to us, there is no scope for debate. Quite simply, Liverpool have everything you want for a run-in – momentum, a healthy squad, key players clicking and a sense of belief that will get you out of a hole. It’s why a historic Double is ON and why this season could prove the most memorable of a lifetime….
Every test put in front of us we pass. Southampton, Spurs, Chelsea, Porto. The Reds keep finding a way.
We are seven games away from greatness. As Jurgen would say, don’t be scared….. relish the opportunity.
By Dave Tindall