Liverpool – Bright Future or False Dawn?

Liverpool – Bright Future or False Dawn?

When Alan Hansen lifted the Football League championship trophy above his head in 1990, nobody inside or outside of Anfield believed it was the last time a Liverpool captain would do so.

During the previous twenty years, the club had finished outside of the top two on three occasions, outside the top three just twice. It was a phenomenal record; 11 league titles, accompanied by 4 Champions Cup triumphs, as well as winning the FA Cup and League Cup.

Since then, cup triumphs have sated the appetite for silverware but being crowned champions continues to elude the Reds. In the twenty-four completed Premier League seasons, they have finished in the top two just three times, in the top three on five other occasions.

A procession of experienced managers intent on changing that record, have ultimately failed. Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers came close but on the cusp, they slipped and the club tumbled back to square one.

Liverpool bright future

Rodgers suffered the ultimate heartache. With three games to go in 2013-14, Liverpool were five points clear of Chelsea with the Blues their next opponents at Anfield. Steven Gerrard’s slip is one of the Premier League’s iconic moments, putting Liverpool on the back foot in the title race with the 0 – 2 defeat.

Dropping a three-goal lead at Crystal Palace a week later sounded the death knell for their title hopes. Manchester City won the league by two points.

Jurgen Klopp took the reins last October and his task is quite clear: return Liverpool to former glories. The regularity of title wins may be beyond any one club in English football at the moment but challenge often enough and league titles will be won.

The squad is being shaped as his own. Key additions were made to the spine of the team whilst those considered surplus to requirements were shifted on quickly. But Klopp’s key change has been to alter the style of play.

Gegenpress has become a necessary part of English football’s vocabulary. Klopp tried to get the Liverpool squad into his mindset last season. It didn’t work as quickly as he thought; in the Premier League, results moved them from 13th to an 8th place finish.

Europe almost bowed to them but a spectacular collapse in the second half of the Europa League final saw Sevilla overrun them in Basel.

A busy summer saw him actively seek out players who have the energy and stamina to carry out his ideas. The question is whether they can do so in practice.

Early signs were good. A 4 – 3 win at Arsenal on the opening day hints at a closer scoreline than it should have been. Followed by a 0 – 2 defeat at Burnley and an ordinary performance at White Hart Lane in the 1 – 1 draw, questions were being asked. Six wins out of seven answered them. Or have they?

There have been some good wins – Leicester, Hull and at Crystal Palace last weekend – among the run but some worrying signs as well. Manchester United stifled them with ease– and a lot of hard work - at Anfield, giving a good example of how to counter Klopp’s tactics. Arsenal pegged two goals back and gave the closing quarter of the game a frenetic edge previously thought unlikely.

Klopp with liverpool

A major concern for Liverpool’s title chances is Daniel Sturridge. His fitness is always in question, so wretched has his fortune been in recent years but are those days behind him? If they are, he needs to find his scoring boots. 348 minutes in the Premier League, no goals.

Liverpool are scoring – Milner, Coutinho, Firmino and Mané all have four, Lallana three – but whilst spreading goals around is good for the team, it is rare that the pattern continues in title-winning sides. There has always been a focal point of the attack, one player whose goals make the difference in tight matches.

Chelsea did win the league with Didier Drogba barely registering double figures and there’s no reason to dismiss the prospect of Liverpool winning the league; history makes it unlikely.

However, it isn’t the biggest vulnerability facing Klopp’s ambition. Defensively, Liverpool’s only clean sheet came in the dour match against United. They have conceded in every other game. Arsenal conceded four on the opening day and four clean sheets later have just ten goals against their name.

Liverpool’s recent past suggests they will always concede. Reshaping the defence impinges on this aspect of the game and Klopp has two new centre backs and a goalkeeper to integrate into the squad.

And Loris Karius has shown the same streak of impetuosity which undermined Simon Mignolet in his manager’s eyes. He has a little more luck than the Belgian whose mistakes tend to be costly.

The problems are more on the road. Arsenal’s three, Burnley got two with Sean Dyche’s pressing game the template for Mourinho to follow. They compressed the game into small areas with a disciplined defensive line. Crystal Palace showed some worrying cracks in the back four.

With Arsenal in good form and Manchester City recovering theirs, is the Anfield title charge over? Not necessarily. Liverpool’s great strength is their team spirit. The players fight for each other doggedly and understand their roles completely.

Without the depth to their squad of their rivals, there is more certainty in Klopp’s team selections. He can make minor changes but a sense of continuity is springing. The players seem sure of their selection without complacency taking hold.

This might be the year but it has more of a feel of building foundations, a work-in-progress. Another astute summer transfer window may see the twenty-five year wait end.

About the Author Moha

Hardcore fun of the beautiful game. Played soccer for different clubs in my country before hanging up my boots. Now writer for My Soccer HQ

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