This is a guest piece.
So, we’re a month and four games into the season, and though it is perhaps too early to draw too many cast-iron conclusions, the international break gives us an ideal opportunity to assess the start. The start, not just by ourselves but by those likely to be pushing us comes in May. So, what has gone well, not-so-well and surprised us?
Genuine Title Contenders
Until recently, a question mark would have followed, but now, it is not only dyed in the wool of Reds who think it. Four games in, twelve points and standing at the top of the table only tells a fraction of the story, however. Though it has been far from the perfect start from we would have envisaged walking over Stanley Park before the West Ham game, in many ways it is better.
First, Keita has been the player that we all hoped he would be and could have more of an impact than Coutinho, both for the team and the way Klopp wants us to play. We cannot expect West Ham performances week in, week out, but since he was able to produce as much on his introduction to the league is phenomenal.
I also think that the less-than-barnstorming start by Salah is a good thing. We were never just a team that only hinged on the mercurial Egyptian, but he was critical — far too crucial you could say — last season. To win anything, especially the title, we need other people to step up consistently. Mané, take a bow. Salah will begin knocking them in, which there is no doubt about that, but the fact we are not reliant on him is a good thing. The victory over Leicester was the first EPL game we have won where Salah started, not found the net himself or set up a teammate.
Cliché time, but as is usually the case, they hold more than an element of truth, and here are two. To win a title, you need to do so from the back, and you also need to know how to get ugly. Last season, we put the foundations in place for the former, and now, there is no question that we have a defense worthy of a title challenge. We have also shown we can grind out results, especially away from home, with our inability to do so in previous seasons having cost us numerous points and who knows what silverware.
At the beginning of August, Manchester City was the biggest hurdle to Liverpool lifting the title, and nothing has changed in that regard. City has been far from the team who swept it all (apart from the Reds in the head-to-heads), aside from last time out. Some of that can be put down to the loss of De Bruyne, but so far, it just has not clicked for Pep’s men. That said, they have dropped just two points, and with three winnable games coming up before they come to Anfield, the table may look different when the two teams take to the pitch.
It is still only September, but it looks like we can write the other half of Manchester off from mounting a challenge, too. Two defeats mean they will need to go the remainder of the season without losing more than once again, and looking at the disharmony on — and off — the pitch, you cannot see that happening. Arsenal and their players look like they will take time to come to terms with the way Emery wants to play. Their North London neighbors’ delayed move, as well as their old Achilles heel coming back to haunt them against Watford, looks like it may be a season too early — or indeed three too late — for the Spurs.
The surprise package among the real contenders is due to how quickly Sarri has turned last year’s car crash of a team around. Whether they will be able to sustain it is another question, but Chelsea has a history of taking a season off before coming back strong, and it would be unwise to write them off yet.
To end with another cliché, you can’t win the title in August, but you can lose it. After the first month, it would appear the only three real contenders are ourselves, Manchester City and Chelsea. There will be ups and downs for all three in the coming months. And with this being the season Klopp predicted silverware when he took over the helm, so far, that plan also looks like it may be on track.