The last time Liverpool were involved in a title race, it ended in heart-break. After twenty-three years of waiting for their first ever Premier League title, somehow the Liverpool team under Brendan Rodgers just could not get to the finish line ending up second just 2 points behind winners, Manchester City. Two years later and Liverpool seem to have found themselves in another potential title race, this time under Jürgen Klopp, but what makes Liverpool’s chances this season better than under Brendan Rodgers in 2013/14?
Liverpool enjoyed a brilliant season in 2013/14, scoring 101 league goals, the highest number of goals scored by a Premier League runner-up and also the third highest number of goals ever scored by the club in the top flight. Luis Suárez finished as the league’s top scorer with 31 goals and Steven Gerrard finished with the most assists, with 13. Although there were reasons to celebrate the attacking football produced, Liverpool always seemed to concede goals which proved to be their downfall, conceding a remarkable 50 goals that season, including some in vital games, which ultimately decided the clubs fate. Liverpool only managed to keep 10 clean sheets throughout the whole campaign, unlike Manchester City who kept 16 clean sheets and went on to win the league.
Liverpool look to push on under Klopp’s first year at the club. There is a different aura around the club this season. Klopp has given not only the players but the supporters a belief that they can go on and compete against anyone and come out with a positive result. Liverpool have been a joy to watch, with their pace, energy and movement, they have brushed teams away. Only losing once so far in all competitions and are unbeaten in 13 matches in all competitions, a run which stretches back to mid-August. The club will look to be aiming for a Champions League top four finish and even a shot at the title. This time in the 2013/14 season Liverpool had 24 points after 12 games, now Liverpool have 27 and it could have been a lot more if the club had taken their chances against some teams but were unfortunate or wasteful.
Football is a team sport but Liverpool were reliant on a few players in 2013/14. Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard were perhaps the main catalysts in Liverpool’s successful campaign. This season is the complete opposite in terms of relying on single players. Of course you look at the likes of Phillipe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané who can win you games, but as a team every individual has played a massive part so far in the season. The recent signings in Joel Matip, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Loris Karius have enhanced the team dramatically.
One player in particular who has been under scrutiny this season and has turned doubters into believers is Jordan Henderson. Everyone has been craving to see Henderson fulfilling his potential at the club and is slowly but surely proving his worth as captain of the club. Now providing goals and assists to his game, Henderson is also leading the reds to the top end of the league. A massive asset at the club and under Klopp getting better in all aspects of his game. His club form is also is being recognised the International side. Captaining England twice. A vast improvement from the Henderson of last season.
Joel Matip has to get a special shoutout. The Cameroonian who joined Liverpool on a free seems to be one of Liverpool’s finest signings in recent times. Matip looks like he has been playing in the Premier League forever. Each time he plays you wonder how so few Champions League clubs challenged Liverpool for his signature. His composure and quality in moving forward and finding the correct pass from the back is exactly what Klopp has been wanting in this Liverpool team. When you compare the extortionate amounts of money being spent on ‘ball playing centre backs’ for example John Stones who cost Manchester City £50 million, Shkodran Mustafi to Arsenal for £35 million, Eric Bailly to Manchester United for £30 million and David Luiz to Chelsea for £30 million, makes Matip joining Liverpol for absolutely nothing to be considered daylight robbery in today’s market. Matip oozes calmness and class at the back which Liverpool have been missing since Sami Hypia and Daniel Agger. The partnership also forming between Matip and Dejan Lovren is something that the club have needed for a while. There has been an instilled confidence in the defence which has not been at the club for years. Matip has also insisted on not joining Cameroon at the African Cup of Nations and instead focus on Liverpool and the clubs success this season, a major positive move for the club. Liverpool are yet to lose a game with Matip in the side.
“We are not weak in defending. If you want to say this, do it – I don’t care. I know we aren’t,”
With no European football this season it may also be a massive boost in Liverpool’s form, although Klopp would rather be in the Champions League than watching it at home. In 2013/14 Liverpool also had no European competitions to participate in, which seemed to help them mount a title challenge, this could be a major factor in their hopes for a title. Klopp has said that although they don’t play midweek they will be put through a strict training regim. Chelsea who are another team not playing in Europe this season are also benefiting from no midweek fixtures. Both teams right at the top of the Premier League as you are reading this. Having beaten Arsenal at The Emirates, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Champions Leicester City and demolishing bottom half teams already this season, Liverpool look like a force to be reckoned with, especially with the gap of game time. It leaves the players fully charged and ready for each game.
Africa Cup of Nations will be a slight headache for Klopp regarding one player. With Sadio Mané leaving Liverpool and joining Senegal for the tournament it will leave a hole in the team. Mané has been absolutely sensational since he has joined the club. Questions were raised when first brought from, yes you guessed it, Southampton, but has proved to be arguably one of the signings of the season.Was the alternative from Mario Götze who decided to join Borrusia Dortmund but looking at the statistics and impact Mané has made in the short period of time, there is no doubt who the majority of Liverpool supporters would prefer. In 11 games Mané has 6 goals and 2 assists to his name, but not even those statistics do him justice. He was exactly the type of player Liverpool needed. Direct, lively, and a goal threat. Klopp now has a dilemma going into the January transfer window, either bring in a player to fill in for Mané or go with one of the squad players ready to take Mané’s place in his absence. Sheyi Ojo would almost be the perfect replacement, although Ojo has just come back from injury, his performances prior to that were encouraging. Whatever happens at the African Cup of Nations, Klopp will surely want Mané back as soon as possible to help the reds keep the pressure at the top.
Finally, Daniel Sturridge. Too good to be sitting on the bench but also too good to get rid off. A lot of supporters forget that he was an integral part of the team that nearly won the league in 2013/14. Sturridge carried the team for the first few games while Luis Suarez was banned. Sturridge has undeniable talent with 47 goals in 81 games for the club. Although no goals so far in the league, his class was shown against Tottenham, scoring both goals to put Liverpool through to the next round of the EFL Cup. It is vital Klopp sticks with Sturridge. A long season ahead awaits Liverpool and players like Sturridge can win you games out of no where, and those games he will score in will count towards Liverpool’s success this season.
The remaining fixtures in 2016, in the Premier League for Liverpool may look straightforward but as we all know, no game in the top tier of English football is a given. Saying that, if Liverpool want to consider themselves title contenders than they should be looking at (hopefully) getting maximum points bar Manchester City on New Years Eve who will realistically be their only ‘tough test’.
Liverpool’s remaining Premier League fixtures 2016:
- Sunderland (H)
- Bournemouth (A)
- West Ham (H)
- Middlesbrough (A)
- Everton (A)
- Stoke (H)
- Manchester City (H)
Pundits, supporters, rival supporters, journalists, ex football players, all will call Liverpool ‘title contenders’, but ask Klopp and he will give you an answer he would give you even if Liverpool were 15 points clear, a simple “No.”
Whatever happens this season, Klopp has turned everyone associated with Liverpool from doubters to believers, so why not achieve something special?
Written by Vilson Beiqi