So here we stand. Eighteen games into a Premier League season, the halfway point, and Liverpool sit atop the table. Ask anyone if they would have taken this at the beginning of the season and I’m pretty sure you’d be missing a hand right now. Boxing Day’s win over Newcastle made it 16 in all in the league and, including the three draws (Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal – no slouches, I’m sure you’ll agree), it’s easy to see why everyone is getting all excited. So, at this halfway point in the season, I thought it only right to discuss three things to be particularly enthusiastic about…
The Brazilian has certainly made a difference to Liverpool since he arrived in the summer. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago and compared him to his predecessors. The fact of the matter is that Alisson has transformed us since he came to the club. A back four with a competent goalkeeper in front of them, maybe even the best in the world, is a confident back four. The stats even back this up. Alisson has only conceded seven league goals this season.
In fact, he has more clean sheets to his name (13) than he has goals against him. That’s an astonishing statistic. When you consider that he is on track to concede only 14 league goals all season at this rate and you compare that to the 38 we conceded by the end of last season, it makes it all the more remarkable. The monstrous defence Liverpool has has obviously played its part in this but there is no doubt that this is underpinned by the brilliance of Alisson Becker between the sticks.
A world-class spine
This is something that Alisson is a fundamental part of. For those who don’t know – and sorry to those of you whose intelligence I am about to insult – the spine consists of the goalkeeper, centre-halves, central midfield and centre-forwards. Liverpool have top class players in all of these positions.
There is, of course, the aforementioned Alisson in goal. In front of him sit the mercurial Virgil Van Dijk who could be partnered by the composed Joel Matip, the dogged Dejan Lovren or the athletic Joe Gomez. The midfield could comprise of Fabinho, now settling into his new surroundings and looking an excellent piece of business, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Gini Wijanldum, or James Milner. While up front, the surprisingly fantastic Xherdan Shaqiri (what does Charlie Adam know?) will sit behind the ever brilliant Roberto Firmino.
We have had this scenario before – Rafa Benitez’s 2008/09 side had a world-class spine of its own while Brendan Rodgers’ 2013/14 team had no width but got as far as it did because of the concentration of play through the middle. This side is flanked by some awesome wide players though (unlike 2008/09) and has real strength in depth (unlike Benitez’s or Rodgers’ teams). Where we have previously run on momentum and eventually ran out of it, this team looks like it can go the distance.
Christmas number one
Yes, I am about to pedal out that stat you are probably sick of hearing. The team top at Christmas has won the league for eight out of that past 10 years, so Liverpool are obviously sitting in a statistically favourable position. We also look so comfortable in that position and don’t look like wobbling anytime soon. There are certainly tricky games on the horizon with Arsenal up next at home and a little fixture at the Etihad next week.
There is only coal being poured onto this fire at the minute and no water just yet. I should mention though that the two times the team that were top at Christmas didn’t win the league were 2008/09 and 2013/24. Those teams were, of course, Liverpool.
Liverpool’s start to the season has been freakish and it clearly won’t last. Anyone who thinks we will finish this season unbeaten needs their head testing. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy this while we can though. The dip in form will come at some point and we have to prepare not to panic when it happens. What we have done so far is built a considerable buffer between ourselves and second-placed Tottenham and a seven point gap to Manchester City. We can now afford to have a wobble if or when it comes.
Let’s not talk about the hows and where-fors for now though. Let’s just sit back and enjoy possibly the greatest Liverpool side of the Premier League era. Don’t worry about the statistics and, as Jurgen Klopp himself would say, just be cool.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Get your copy of the FIRST of two December issues for just ₤4.99 here, or the SECOND of the December issues with an annual membership right here.