This time last season, we went into the international break with seven points from our opening three games, scoring eight goals and conceding three. We had a promising signing in the form of Mohamed Salah who looked like he would be a goal machine once he, and I quote myself here, “learnt how to finish without taking twenty-five attempts to get his goal first,” and we had Champions League football to look forward to for the first time in four years. Jurgen Klopp‘s grand plan was now starting to come together, it was clear for all to see. Things were looking up.
Fast forward a year and we have twelve points from our opening four Premier League games, an improvement in the form guide from last year (2017/18 our opening form guide was DWW – this season it has been WWWW). We have conceded only one goal in that time and we have a goalkeeper who actually looks competent barring one major mistake in his last game. Our defence finally looks settled, as opposed to last year when everyone panicked irrationally and justifiably every time we had a set-piece against us. Once again, it looks like we have made the required improvement as we did this time twelve months ago.
There is a warning to take from this story, however. Following the international break we faced the stern task of travelling to the Etihad Stadium to face champions elect, now champions incumbent, Manchester City. Personally, I felt good going into the game. We had nothing to fear, City were nowhere near the proposition they are now last September, and we had more than enough about us for City to be worried about themselves. It was far from a piece of cake but we certainly had a good chance of getting a result. The opening stages of the game were promising too and we probably should have been ahead within the opening thirty minutes. Then, Sadio Mane was sent off and we know what happened from there…
We showed mental weakness in that game on the pitch and, to be bluntly honest about it, ineptitude in the dugout. It was clear Klopp didn’t have the tools in terms of personnel or tactical awareness to make a decent fist of a comeback. From a game that we had a decent chance of causing an upset in, we walked away on the wrong end of a 5-0 scoreline. It hurt. It hurt a lot.
This isn’t the same side, though. Jurgen Klopp has ensured during his time at the club that his team is evolving season-on-season. There has been no regression, there has been no repetition of old mistakes in the long term. This side has learnt how to deal with everything that can be thrown at them. They certainly learnt a lot that day at the Etihad. They are a much stronger opposition in September 2018 than they were in September 2017.
This weekend we find ourselves in a similar position to which we were in last year. This weekend, we travel to Wembley to face a Tottenham Hotspur side that will have mixed emotions with regards their start to the season. On one hand, they were rampant against Manchester United at Old Trafford and it finally looked like Spurs were ready to make the leap to compete with the big boys. On the other hand, it looked like same, old shaky Spurs during their 2-1 bullying at the hands of Watford. But don’t let that defeat at Vicarage Road fool you for this is still a Spurs side packed full of stars. A World Cup winning captain, a World Cup golden boot winner, a world-class number ten, a winger with frightening pace and ability – there is still plenty to fear in North London.
A lot about this game rings true with our trip down the M62 last season. But we are different. We are much stronger now than we were then and than we were during our last trip to Wembley, a month after our mauling in Manchester. This team is becoming one that has seen everything and knows what to do in every situation. They are compiling a manual in Melwood of what to do with every issue that can arise during a professional football match. It’s growing bigger by the week and Liverpool will be able to see ‘Spurs (A) October 2017’ for instructions on what to do on Saturday lunchtime. We are more than equipped to deal with the threat of Harry Kane, we are more than prepared to stifle Christian Eriksen, we can more than handle Lucas Moura, we are more than capable of finding a way past Hugo Lloris.
Spurs are a good team and their defeat against Watford should be looked at as more a blip than the blueprint. They will be looking for a reaction this weekend, especially with this game being at home and against an opponent such as ourselves. But we’re the ones to fear now. We’re the team to worry about. And Spurs should be extremely worried.