Opinion: Liverpool top of the table - but for how long?

Opinion: Liverpool top of the table - but for how long?

Liverpool's 6-1 thrashing of Watford on Sunday sent them roaring to the top of the Premier League for the first time in over two years - but to stay there until the end of the season, the Reds need to capitalize on a crucial period of fixtures in the final stage of 2016.

Ben Lockett

Liverpool have been threatening the top of the Premier League – indeed, they were only around ten minutes away from climbing to the summit against West Bromwich Albion, before Gareth McAuley intervened.

However, the Reds eventually broke the door down in emphatic style against Watford at Anfield.

With their crushing 6-1 victory, Jürgen Klopp’s side now lead the rest of the Premier League for the first time since May 2014, when a 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace ironically put Liverpool back above Manchester City but in reality out of the title race.

Yet Liverpool are a new team, with 2014 firmly in the memory, although once again it is their sensational attack which is leading their latest title charge.

As usual under Klopp, Liverpool were all over Watford like a rash, with their movement and intensity far too much for the Hornets, and everyone going forward was involved on Sunday, from Sadio Mane to Emre Can.

While their immediate rivals may all be more rounded sides at both ends of the pitch, no-one in the league is better at creating chances than Liverpool. At the moment, they are blowing teams away, especially the lesser sides, which is an excellent sign compared to last season’s struggles against teams below them in the table.

Liverpool’s lust for endless goals may evoke memories of 2013-14, but with so many players in red capable of scoring goals, there is little reliance on specific figures, albeit an injury to Philippe Coutinho in particular would be a significant blow.

Nevertheless, with thirty goals scored in only eleven league games, and ten in their last two, if Liverpool keep scoring at this rate they will incredibly eclipse the absurd total of 101 from the Luis Suarez-led title challenging season.

Issues at the back for Reds to solve?

Concerns will always remain over the defence – even if they are improving with the additions of Joel Matip and James Milner at the back, there is always a mistake lurking ominously around the corner.

Aside from a five minute Watford salvo, the Liverpool defence were composed and formidable, but unfortunately the goal arrived in that brief spell of ascendancy for Walter Mazzarri’s men.

Game management is an issue – maintaining concentration is tough defensively, especially when you have such attacking firepower which has given you a five goal lead.

Loris Karius did enjoy his best display for the club, but Liverpool still only have one clean sheet in the Premier League this season, against an immensely negative Manchester United side.

Yet without question, if Liverpool do go on to finally win the title this season, it will be because, unlike in 2014, they will have played the high stakes poker game of ‘you score two, we score three’ successfully. The defence may haunt them one day, but if it is only for one day, then the risk in their exhilarating football will have been worth it.

Moreover, the Reds have already displayed game management in tight, crucial fixtures – such as in the wins over Chelsea, West Brom and even Arsenal, when Liverpool were teetering at 4-3.

If the title ends up in the red half of Merseyside for the first time in 27 years, much of the credit will have to go to Klopp for creating such a devastating and confident attacking side so quickly.

In just over a year, the Reds have been to two cup finals and now are topping the Premier League – with an excellent chance of remaining league leaders for the foreseeable, given their upcoming fixtures against Southampton, Sunderland, Bournemouth, West Ham and Middlesbrough.

If they could remain ahead of title favourites Manchester City when the two meet at the Etihad Stadium on New Year’s Eve then Liverpool would have a great chance of the title going into 2017.

For now, confidence is sky high as the Reds look down on everyone else, beginning to imagine lifting the trophy at the end of the season.

Going into another international break, Klopp will be praying everyone returns to Anfield with no injuries or knocks, although conditioning is also enormously important – many Liverpool players appeared sluggish in the draw with Manchester United following the previous international break, unable to perform to Klopp’s standards or style of play.

Moreover, with, for instance, Coutinho and Roberto Firmino on duty thousands of miles away for Brazil, the Reds may have to rely less on their dynamic duo for the visit to Southampton in under a fortnight.

However, as players leave Liverpool to join up with their countries, they can be immensely proud with their start to the season. They have the quality, the manager, the fitness and now the belief to ensure their position in November is the same at the end of May.