With Liverpool top of the table for the first time since May 2014 under Brendan Rodgers, Michelle Owen discusses whether Jurgen Klopp’s side have what it takes to be title contenders this season.
After 11 games, Liverpool sit top of the table with 30 goals scored – more than any other Premier League side. I covered their match for Sky Sports News as they thrashed Watford 6-1 before the international break. The score could’ve been double figures – there were too many chances to try and fit them all in! Yes, Watford were poor, but Liverpool were relentless in their attacking play.
Of course, they’ve been here before. The last time they sat top of the Premier League was May 2014, and we all know how that ended. However, they are already three points better off than this time that season when they sat second behind Arsenal.
It’s obviously far too early to draw any conclusions from the table. Jurgen Klopp has been at pains to emphasise how after 11 games it means nothing, but it’s a safe bet to say the five or six teams there at the moment will be there in six months time. So, how do Klopp’s class of 2016/2017 compare to the squad who came so close a couple of years ago?
This season’s starting side only has two players remaining from the efforts two years ago. Jordan Henderson, who has replaced Steven Gerrard as the deepest midfielder, and the little magician Philippe Coutinho, who is usually used on the left of the attack. Roberto Firminho leads the line, but there’s no room for Daniel Sturridge. He seemed to cut a frustrated figure when he came on as a substitute against Watford, twice hitting the goal frame but not managing to find the net.
There will be concerns about losing Sadio Mane come January as he goes to the Africa Cup of Nations, will Klopp draft in a loan replacement? Could Sturridge play on the right and cut in effectively? Going forward Liverpool are super impressive, however they have only kept two clean sheets thus far.
Liverpool’s average of conceding 1.3 goals per game is very similar to their 2013/2014 season. Though, Brendan Rodgers’ side did manage to keep 10 clean sheets. They also kept the shots faced per game average very low at just 8.1, but this season it’s higher than any of their title rivals at 12.6.
The 2013/2014 season failure is so often blamed on Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea in late April, but the 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace, where they capitulated and threw away a three goal lead, is just as much to blame.
The side from a couple of seasons ago also had attacking flare in abundance, but was suspect at the back. Klopp’s side will need to sure up their defensive frailties to prevent the same mistakes happening this time around.
Klopp is so likeable, hugely charismatic and great value – I’d love to do one of his press conferences. He’s previously been quoted as saying the current squad must not carry the history of the club on their backs. Klopp’s dealings with the media will also be key as Liverpool look to be genuine title contenders. His players will see and read what he says, and his mentality and mindset will inevitably feed through to the training ground.
At the moment, the title race is already fascinating. Just two points separate the top four teams, and as a neutral I hope it stays this close until May to ensure an enthralling climax to the season. If Klopp can have a fit squad at his disposal, play with the attacking flair they have demonstrated, sure things up defensively and find that mental edge – this could finally be Liverpool’s season.
Follow Michelle at @MichelleOwen7