Opportunity knocks for Liverpool as they prepare for their opening Premier League game of the season against West Ham this Sunday.
With Manchester United’s pre-season form uninspiring, Tottenham’s squad hit harder than most by the World Cup and Chelsea and Arsenal adjusting to new management, the Reds have a chance to steal an early march on their rivals in the collective onslaught against Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have set their sights on the title and while it certainly cannot be won in the first phase of the season, it can be lost.
If Liverpool can fly out of the blocks and lay down a marker, their confidence will only grow, but if they start sluggishly they will immediately find themselves on the back-foot.
Here is a look at just how important the club’s initial form has been down the years.
Points after 10 games: 16 (6th) W4 D4 L2. 12 points behind leaders Manchester City.
Final position: 4th. 25 points behind champions City.
Win rate after 10 games: 40%
Ultimate win rate: 55%
Liverpool harboured ambitious aspirations of top spot at the beginning of the 2017/18 season, but Manchester City’s stunning start put pay to those dreams.
The Reds kicked-off with a gut-wrenching 3-3 draw against Watford before edging past Crystal Palace and thumping Arsenal at Anfield.
They lost further ground to Pep Guardiola’s side when they fell to a 5-0 defeat at the Etihad and dropped points at home to Burnley.
A hard-fought 3-2 win at Leicester tasted very sweet after a difficult run.
October proved a month to forget as Klopp’s side somehow came away with just a point at Newcastle, were held to a goalless draw by Manchester United and were blitzed by Spurs at Wembley.
They returned to form on Matchday 10 with an ultimately convincing 3-0 win against Huddersfield, but already sizzling City were out of sight.
Liverpool found another gear after their shaky start and would ultimately finish 4th, but any hope of pressuring the eventual champions had evaporated at the beginning of the campaign, and they wound up a long, long way behind.
Points after ten games: 23 (3rd) W7 D2 L1. Level on points with leaders City.
Final position: 4th. 17 points behind champions Chelsea.
Win rate after 10 games: 70%
Ultimate win rate: 55%
It is easy to forget that, before a nightmare January, Liverpool will right in title contention in 16/17. And that stemmed from a hugely impressive start to the season, with Klopp’s men emerging as a real domestic force once again.
The contrast between the opening two games was remarkable. An enthralling 4-3 victory at the Emirates was followed by a turgid 2-0 loss to Burnley as Liverpool utterly dominated the ball but found themselves condemned to defeat by sloppy defending.
A 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane and a resounding 4-1 triumph at home to Leicester followed before the Reds truly underlined their credentials with an excellent 2-1 win away at eventual champions Chelsea.
They then thumped Hull City before battling past Swansea and West Brom either side of a stalemate against Manchester United.
When the Reds beat Palace 4-2 at the end of October, they moved level on points with joint-leaders City and Arsenal. After picking up seven wins in their first ten, they looked the real deal.
The winter slump saw them crash out of the title race, but the ship was soon steadied and Liverpool would wind up in fourth place, 17 points off the imperious Chelsea.
If Liverpool were to start in a similar vein this year, they could be confident of sustaining their challenge with a much stronger squad at their disposal.
Points after ten games: 14 (9th) W3 D5 L2. Eight points behind leaders City.
Final position: 8th. 21 points behind champions Leicester.
Win rate after ten games: 30%
Final win rate: 42%
The beginning of the 15/16 season was well and truly the beginning of the end for Brendan Rodgers, and by the time Jurgen Klopp took over Liverpool were already playing catch-up.
They actually started well enough, recording back-to-back 1-0 wins against Bournemouth and Stoke and picking up a point away at Arsenal, but things started to unravel when West Ham came to Anfield at the end of August and won 3-0.
Defeat at Old Trafford and a home draw against Norwich saw the Reds lose yet more ground, and their hard-fought win against Aston Villa at the end of September, who were by all accounts dreadful that year, would prove to be their last Premier League triumph under Rodgers.
A draw against Everton was the nail in the coffin for the Northern Irishman, with Klopp taking over in the subsequent international break and overseeing draws with Spurs and Southampton in his first two league games.
It really was a crazy campaign as the regular contenders faltered, but rather than seizing the opportunity which presented itself Liverpool stumbled at the first few hurdles.
Klopp took the decision to prioritise the Europa League when it became clear that there was no realistic domestic route back into the Champions League, and as a result Liverpool would slip to eighth, matching their worst PL position.
Points after ten games: 14 (7th) W4 D2 L4. 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.
Final position: 6th. 25 points behind champions Chelsea.
Win rate after ten games: 40%
Final win rate: 47%
Inconsistency plagued Liverpool at the beginning of the 14/15 campaign as they failed to build upon their near-miss in the title race.
After edging past Southampton on the opening day, they were comfortably beaten by Manchester City, only to then record a 3-0 win at White Hart Lane six days later.
September saw defeats against Aston Villa and West Ham and a Merseyside Derby draw and while there was a slight upturn the following month as the Reds narrowly beat West Brom and QPR, a goalless draw against Hull City was a result typical of a frustrating season.
Liverpool’s form never really picked up, and they finished in an underwhelming 6th after the extraordinary heights of 13/14.
Points after ten games: 20 (3rd) W6 D2 L2. Five points behind leaders Arsenal.
Final position: 2nd. Two points off champions City.
Win rate after ten games: 60%
Final win rate: 68%
Even without Luis Suarez at first, Liverpool looked in fine fettle at the beginning of 13/14.
Crucially, they found a way to win against Stoke and Aston Villa, taking both games by a goal to nil, and they made it three wins from three when they beat Manchester United at Anfield.
They then stumbled at the beginning of September – a 2-2 draw with Swansea preceded a home reverse against Southampton – but recovered their form by beating Sunderland and Crystal Palace.
The Reds picked up a further four points from clashes with Newcastle and West Brom but the visit to a fast-starting Arsenal at the beginning of November was their biggest test yet.
A 2-0 loss seemed like it would prove costly in the title fight, but as it turned out, developments at the tail-end of the season would be decisive.
Nonetheless, Liverpool’s solid start proved an important platform before they propelled themselves into genuine contention after New Year.
Liverpool’s first ten: West Ham (H), Crystal Palace (A), Brighton (H), Leicester (A), Spurs (A), Southampton (H), Chelsea (A), Man City (H), Huddersfield (A), Cardiff (H)
If the Reds are serious about mounting a title challenge this year, they should accept nothing less than maximum points in their games against the sides outside the ‘top six’. There is no guarantee that will come to pass, of course, but Liverpool really ought to come through seven of the listed games unscathed.
It will be the matches away at Tottenham and at home to Manchester City, you feel, where Klopp’s side can deliver a statement of intent and, potentially, build a points advantage.