Opinion: Liverpool's title talk fully justified with Jürgen Klopp at the helm

Liverpool's superb September drew to a close with a 5-1 thumping of Hull City at Anfield - a good sign given their struggles against the so-called 'smaller' teams. Combined with wins over some of the big boys, including Arsenal, Chelsea and reigning champions Leicester City, Liverpool fans can justifiably start talking about a possible title challenge this season.

Opinion: Liverpool's title talk fully justified with Jürgen Klopp at the helm
(Picture source: Getty Images)

Despite wins against Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City, many were predicting Hull City at Anfield to be just as stern a test for Liverpool, given their lack of consistency against sides traditionally below them in the Premier League table.

Therefore, after a 5-1 thrashing and plenty of compliments from Hull captain Curtis Davies, Liverpool passed another test with flying colours, and have made a superb start to the season, particularly with their attacking football.

Davies’ harrowing experience of Jürgen Klopp’s side at Anfield saw him rank the Reds above the Gunners in their intensity. If Liverpool continue to cause teams as many problems as Arsenal, who are perennial Champions League qualifiers, throughout the season, then a top-four finish will be firmly in sight.

Indeed, the Reds are currently fourth in the table heading into October, with four wins out of four in September.

A trip to Swansea City is next on the agenda for Klopp and Liverpool as they prepare to take their whirlwind football to South Wales, against a side with only four points from six games and a manager, Francesco Guidolin, under immense pressure.

Having already entertained Manchester City in their last two home games, the last team you want to see after Pep Guardiola’s side at the moment is Liverpool.

Meanwhile, for the Reds themselves, their encouraging start to the season has led to whispers about a possible tilt at the title, the trophy that has eluded the Reds for 26 years, since a then-record eighteenth title in 1990. While they have struggled to land England’s biggest prize, Manchester United have since surpassed the Reds with twenty titles of their own.

Yet, nearly a year on from the appointment of Klopp, all elements associated with Liverpool Football Club are moving in the right direction. Stable ownership, an expanding stadium, a firm connection between the fans, players and manager – Liverpool are undoubtedly a club on the up, and united in their ascent.

Reds have their weaknesses, but so do every team 

Finishing in the top-four was the target before the season started, but given how quickly Liverpool’s midfield and attack are carrying out Klopp’s demands to devastating effect, it might be time to perhaps revise that objective.

Of course, there is still an awful long way to go, and the defence needs to improve.

Individually, the back-four of Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and James Milner are looking good, and there is a bright partnership developing between Matip and Lovren. Yet the Reds have yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season – in fact, they are on a run of eight successive league games without a clean sheet, since a 2-0 home victory over Watford in early May.

With Loris Karius now back from injury, and likely to be the new number one in goal ahead of Simon Mignolet, the defence should settle down and improve through greater understanding and confidence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liverpool will not resemble the great AC Milan sides this season at the back, but on occasions where their attack misfires, possessing the ability to keep a few clean sheets will be vital.

Nevertheless, most of the top teams carry weaknesses this season, such as Chelsea’s defence being all at sea, Arsenal’s injury record (and consistency after Christmas), United’s selection issues, Tottenham’s reliance on Harry Kane and Leicester’s second-season syndrome after winning the Premier League.

It remains open at the top, just as it was last year, which should allow an improved, resurgent Liverpool the chance to climb up the table and certainly finish higher than eighth – their final position from last season.

However, there is another team which has showcased their vast improvement early on into the new campaign – Manchester City.

Most had Guardiola’s side down as title favourites, but felt he would need time to adjust his methods to English football.

The Spaniard has had none of that.

With ten wins out of ten in all competitions, City are threatening to walk away with the title before anyone can have the chance to inflict a defeat. To see anyone challenging them appears unrealistic, let alone beating them to the title.

Guardiola has an awesome, rejuvenated squad at his disposal, so for every injury to Sergio Aguero, there is a Kevin De Bruyne to pick up the pieces, and, for the next month or so, vice versa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet Liverpool have been the second best team so far this year, especially given their fixture list, with thirteen points gained after trips to Arsenal, Burnley, Tottenham and Chelsea, alongside home matches against Leicester and Hull.

Now, with Swansea, West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace and Watford to come, alongside Manchester United at Anfield, Liverpool have the chance to go on a run and gain some consistency against the ‘lesser’ sides, proving themselves worthy title contenders.

Moreover, many of their main rivals will simultaneously encounter difficult fixtures, and the Reds could pull away from those beneath them, or move closer to Manchester City – or both.

Reds no longer reliant on just one or two players

Klopp’s impact has once again stirred emotions on the red half of Merseyside, with positive moments only a fleeting occurrence for Liverpool fans in recent years.

Since the departure of Rafael Benitez, only Kenny Dalglish’s return and the title challenge in 2014 under Brendan Rodgers has evoked the best from Liverpool, from the players to the fans.

In particular, the assault on the Premier League in the 2013-14 season was partly swept along by the emotion of the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, alongside the incredible class of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

Three seasons on, if another title challenge arises, the effort would be more rounded, and the team itself appears more durable and set-up for future success.

Liverpool have so much firepower, so many different goalscorers, all providing fantastic movement and relentless work-rate, and Klopp’s ‘gegenpressing’ appears too much for opponents to handle.

There is little reliance on certain individuals, although the likes of Sadio Mane and Joel Matip are quickly becoming key, but not to the same extent as the ‘SAS’ partnership under Rodgers.

Off-the-pitch, instead of Hillsborough, the fans' thoughts are dominated by celebrations of the opening of a new Anfield with its expanded Main Stand, but they are also being treated with the football on the pitch.

Fusing all of this positivity together is the charisma from their manager. Liverpool are now in Klopp’s image, with all of the deadwood removed in his eyes, new signings fitting specific purposes for the team, such as Mane’s pace, and other players working wonders in previously peculiar positions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing James Milner at left-back is especially Guardiola-esque yet the 30-year-old has been incredibly effective, while the subtle change for Adam Lallana, now in the middle of midfield, has been a masterstroke, with Lallana playing his finest football in a Liverpool shirt - and perhaps even his career.

With no European football, Liverpool should have the rest and training needed to continue this fiercely energetic style-of-play throughout the season, especially given the depth in the squad, which will be required during the hectic Christmas schedule.

Anfield pines for greatness, and it may be arriving faster than many thought. Many challenges remain, so Klopp and the team must remain focused, but Liverpool fans may be returning to their favourite line – ‘this year will be our year’.