In England, it’s difficult for us to get our heads round the idea that a team that finished seventh last season and isn’t competing in any of the two European competitions this season could somehow end up landing the Premier League title.
Juventus did it, but Juventus are a different proposition to what Liverpool currently are and Serie A is still wrongly cast off as an inferior product to what England has to offer.
But are the differences between Juventus and Liverpool so emphatic? Though quickly dismiss any notions of Liverpool going unbeaten. Both sides are giants of their respective leagues who are having to build themselves back up – in Juve’s case, that job is already done – and both sides have sought out the guidance of a manager who had previously been in charge of one of the teams much further down the ladder. Antonio Conte did a fantastic job at Siena and warranted the move to Turin.
The thing is, as much as Liverpool have impressed this season – and they have – are they capable of keeping it up throughout the league campaign?
A great benefit to Brendan Rodgers is that he doesn’t have to deal with the commitment of European football. Ok, every major club wants to be a part of the Champions League, but not taking in the revenue and those European nights does have its advantages. The fact that Liverpool are out of the League Cup as well following the loss to Manchester United is another bonus, in a way.
But then comes the snag, the doubt and the feeling that this colossal leap forward isn’t as great as it initially seemed. Liverpool are joint top of the Premier League table on goal difference, they’ve beaten Manchester United at home and both of their strikers are in free-scoring form. The loss to Southampton, however, was a reminder of the old Liverpool, maybe not the Liverpool of a few years ago, but the team who under Rodgers were in their infancy and still trying to find their way.
Southampton have also been hugely impressive this season and a lot of that loss should go down to how well Mauricio Pochettino’s team did to leave Anfield with all three points. The thing is, Liverpool lacked invention on the day, there was no cutting edge and nothing to suggest that one team was a possible title contender and the other punching well above its weight.
The positive from that game and even the loss at Old Trafford is that both games could be chalked off as bad days at the office. You don’t have to play the most attractive football each week, as long as you pick up a result. Rodgers clearly wants to mould this team into a good footballing outfit, but that takes time, like most things.
The Liverpool manager has taken it upon himself to take a page out of the Italian playbook, incidentally, and opt for wingbacks and the use three centre-backs. It’s inventive, it’s different, it allows for different dynamics throughout the pitch that others may not be used to. Importantly, it ensures that the players are performing in a system that suits them.
Liverpool are at a point in the season, as early as it may be, where they can go one of two ways. The first, obviously, is that they maintain this good run of form – and by form I mean picking up points almost every week. The other, is that this proves to be yet another step forward for the club under Rodgers, but one not quite big enough to make them genuine title contenders when the business end of the season rolls around. The point is, we just don’t know as there is still uncertainty in the way they play. For many wins there has been a doubt during games that three points could end up just being one.
The football hasn’t always been effective – and there is a difference between being attractive and effective. The form of champions is to pick up points while playing poorly. But that is the secondary, the fallback option when you’re clearly not at the races. The overriding theme needs to be one of absolute certainty of a win
At this stage, we still haven’t seen a set of back-to-back outstanding performances from this Liverpool side. And come the end of the season, that could be what defines their final position.
Will inconsistency hold Liverpool back?
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