Liverpool fans may like to get carried away should their team make a good start to the season, but given the Reds have not won the Premier League title for 26 years, they are entitled to feel excited when it feels something is dawning at Anfield.
There can be no doubt that, under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool are moving ever stronger in the right direction, playing an electric brand of football and exciting all who follow Liverpool home and away.
Nearly one year on from his appointment, Klopp is the catalyst for the club, uniting everyone together with a renewed sense of hope, vigour and expectation, and it is impossible not to get caught up in the sense of true change that, along with the larger, louder Anfield, is occurring on Merseyside.
That momentum continued at the weekend as Liverpool edged out Swansea City 2-1 in a match of the less glamorous sort, which would have immediately set alarm bells running for Liverpool fans.
After Liverpool went into half-time a goal down, it seemed another, relentless case of déjà vu – going down to a team they should beat, with another defensive lapse and faulty unco-ordinated attacking after building up a good run of form.
Therefore, scrapping for the victory, achieved through yet another nerveless James Milner penalty late on, appears such a good sign for progress this season, as normally Liverpool do not walk away with three points in those types of games.
Klopp’s impact on the pitch has been obvious, but his summer signings have been just as integral. Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum, Loris Karius and Joel Matip all played on Saturday and, heading into the international break, it seems a good opportunity to assess how all of Klopp’s buys have fared thus far:
Sadio Mane –
Mesmeric. The Senegalese international has lit up Anfield since arriving from Southampton for a disputed figure, at least £30 million. However, the price has quickly become irrelevant, as it is clear why Klopp brought Mane to Liverpool.
With plenty of creative attacking midfielders – such as Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana – already at the club, it may have been a surprise to see another arrive this summer, but Mane offers something different to these three above.
Pace – and lots of it.
The 24-year-old’s decision-making and forward play, at such high speed, allows Liverpool to be more direct going forward, while he can link up with those around him as effectively as Coutinho and co.
Operating on the right-hand side of a front three, although all in attack are incredibly versatile, Mane began his Liverpool career supremely well, sending out a firm statement justifying Klopp’s faith with a superb solo goal and a brilliant performance all-round at Arsenal.
He has continued terrifying defenders since, and has three goals and three assists in seven games for the club.
Mane may not sustain such form throughout the entire season – he is known for his inconsistency – but Liverpool and Klopp know they have a special player on their hands, and he will improve at Anfield. A great signing so far.
Joel Matip –
Commanding. The manic and inflated transfer market shows no sign of slowing down year after year. Consequently, for Liverpool to sign a young, but experienced, quality defender from a top team in the Bundesliga, on a free transfer, seemed great business on paper by Klopp when Matip’s signing was announced in January.
After arriving at Anfield in July, the Cameroonian was not helped by injury, but eventually made his Premier League debut against Tottenham Hotspur, and has been building up a relationship with Dejan Lovren in the middle of defence since.
It has not been all plain sailing – Matip did not cover himself in glory for Chelsea’s goal in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge, while Lovren has been in and out of the team due to various issues – but if the duo can have a sustained run of games then Liverpool’s defence may no longer remain an achilles heel. An exciting, and wise capture.
Loris Karius –
Promise. With the goalkeeping position seen as a major issue to address over the summer, Klopp moved quickly in May to secure the signing of Loris Karius from his old club Mainz, for under £5 million.
Brought in to compete with Simon Mignolet, in reality the 23 year old will be Liverpool’s No.1 should he perform.
The young German looked exciting in pre-season, with his style compared to Manuel Neuer, while he was highly praised by his peers in the Bundesliga.
However, after sustaining a broken hand, it was Mignolet who began the season in goal for Liverpool. The Belgian did little wrong in all honestly, but ominously for him, once Karius was fit Klopp put him straight into the team.
He had nothing to do in the League Cup tie against Derby County, which continued with Hull City at Anfield. Conversely, against Swansea, shaky is perhaps a compliment for Karius, who appeared unsettled and unsure of himself.
Yet he is barely into his Liverpool career, and has been brought in by Klopp because the German manager feels Karius has greater ability than Mignolet, who has struggled in the long-term to justify his position at Liverpool. Long way to go yet with Karius.
Alex Manninger –
Back-up. Yet to play for the Reds competitively, Alex Manninger provides adequate cover for Karius and Mignolet in goal, and at 39 is unlikely to trouble either of them for a place on the bench, let alone the team. Useful signing for experience and protection.
Georginio Wijnaldum –
Workmanlike. At around £25 million, more eyebrows were raised when Klopp decided to bring Georginio Wijnaldum to Liverpool from a relegated Newcastle United team.
Yet, as with Mane, the intent has quickly become clear. In a midfield three with Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana, all of whom have started every Premier League game this season, Wijnaldum offers a link between midfield and attack, in a box-to-box role full of relentless running.
Inconsistent in his first year in England, Wijnaldum has raised his standards this season with Liverpool, even if the 25-year-old does not often catch the eye.
Admittedly, he has not performed on the same level as Mane, but the Dutchman provides another adaptable option for Klopp in his midfield. A satisfying start to life at Anfield.
Ragnar Klavan –
Solid. Despite Klopp’s claims, Ragnar Klavan is clearly the chief back-up to Matip and Lovren, ahead of Lucas Leiva (Mamadou Sakho is another issue).
At 30 years of age, he provides the experienced option in the wake of the departures of Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure.
Cheap (just over £4 million) and dependable, he has performed reasonably well whenever called upon, although the Estonian captain is not without his limitations, such as in the 2-0 loss to Burnley. A smart signing for the role he fills.
Marko Grujic –
Future. Currently a squad player, and a distant one at that, Marko Grujic is clearly in Klopp’s plans, as pre-season demonstrated, but for the long-term instead of the immediate present.
Another low-budget signing, again at around £5 million, the 20-year-old’s signature was also announced in January, alongside Matip.
A product of Red Star Belgrade’s academy, Grujic was admired across most of Europe, but has barely featured so far for Liverpool, making only one start against Derby.
The Serbian may breakthrough later on in the season, but with the current midfield trio plus Emre Can, Grujic may have to wait to realise his potential at Anfield. An exciting prospect.