Liverpool’s demolition job of Watford last weekend saw them move to the top the Premier League table for the first time since their title push under Brendan Rodgers. The Reds have been in awesome form this season, with an off day against Burnley at Turf Moor their only blemish so far.
Jurgen Klopp’s high-intensity pressing philosophy has been well and truly implemented and the rewards are being reaped. Opposition teams are being put under immense pressure high up the pitch and mistakes are being pounced upon with sweeping attacks. It is brilliant to watch.
Few genuinely saw Liverpool as title contenders this year, especially with the way Manchester City started. Yet they sit at the top of the pile and only seem to be getting better with each passing week. So, are they genuine title contenders? Perhaps.
Goalscoring has been no problem for them. With 30 scored already this season, they are head and shoulders above anyone else in the league – with the exception of the other teams currently occupying the top four positions, nobody else has scored more than sixteen goals. Despite not using an out and out striker on a regular basis, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana have been causing havoc and converting chances at will. James Milner is also chipping in, albeit via the penalty spot, while even Emre Can and Dejan Lovren also have a couple of goals apiece.
The fact that goals are being spread around the team so freely is obviously good news. You would expect that should injuries and suspensions stay at a minimum, Liverpool have enough about them to continue to score goals. We haven’t even touched on Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi who are yet to bag in the Premier League. It’s incredible for a team to be so free-scoring without the main recognised strikers even contributing.
However, if Liverpool’s strength is scoring goals, then their weakness is conceding. One clean sheet this season so far perhaps highlights a potential derailment to their hopes of landing a first title since 1990.
Sunday’s match against Watford is a perfect example. Whilst the game was won at 5-0 up and the Hornets had offered nothing all game they were still afforded the chance to get onto the scoresheet. In this instance, it didn’t matter, but there is a habit forming that allows teams opportunities.
Outscoring the opposition is all well and good, but rarely is it sustainable throughout a season. As Liverpool found out themselves under Rodgers, a solid defence cannot be underestimated and that was ultimately their downfall with that fateful night at Selhurst Park serving as a stark example – that 3-3 draw, after leading 3-0, will haunt fans forever. Yet the lesson is there. During that 2013/2014 season, Liverpool scored an astonishing 101 goals. However, a hefty fifty goals were also shipped at the other end and ultimately that porous defence is what proved costly. Manchester City, with the second best defence that year, were in a perfect position to pounce on any
Yet the lesson is there. During that 2013/14 season, Liverpool scored an astonishing 101 goals. However, a hefty fifty were also shipped at the other end and ultimately that porous defence is what proved costly. Manchester City, with the second best defence that year, were in a perfect position to pounce on any slip-ups (no pun intended) and that is exactly what happened.
The record books show that a team must have one of the best defences in the league to come out as champions. Over the last five years, the champions have either had the best or second-best defence in the league on four occasions. The exception to this was Manchester United in 2012/2013 who managed to concede 43 times but still grab the title.
Whilst it isn’t hindering the team at the moment, there will be times when scoring two or three in each game will not be possible. Grinding out a result is just as important as being able to blow teams away. As shown in the Burnley game, an off day can happen at any time.
This Liverpool team is exciting to watch and is providing plenty of entertainment. The Reds are close to having a team capable of mounting a serious challenge. However, for me, Klopp is going to have to find a way to shore up an all too generous defence in order to cross the line as champions for the first time in 27 years.
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